Saturday, June 29, 2013

Chapter 5: Please post your responses to your most favorite STUDY QUESTIONS in the chapter here.


  1. STUDY QUESTION: Think of a class you are planning to teach or are currently teaching. What could be a profound question that could create the "window" for you, and at the same time, promote deep reflective thinking among your students?

    Last fall I had my Counseling/Leadership grad students write a reflection paper for Career Development Across the Lifespan. The paper asked each student to reflect on their own work experiences as well those of their families, down through the generations. Students were to reflect also on what they were taught about work, growing up, and on how they saw the role of work in their lives, going forward.

    This assignment gave me a window into students' families of origin, their role within those families, their struggles, and their dreams. With their permission, I read anonymous excerpts from a few of the papers.

    Reading (and commenting on) these papers was a humbling privilege, one that allowed me to connect both personally and academically in a more meaningful way to each student.

    If I had one disappointment, it's that we had not reached a point in the semester when the students felt comfortable sharing their papers with one another. Just as we saw in the recent documentary about the fourth-grade classroom, learning is enhanced tremendously when students bond not only with their teacher but with one another.

    We did achieve some of that bonding as the semester went on. I only wish I had started actively encouraging that bonding even sooner.

  2. Ch. 5 If children have the ability to learn without instruction outside schools, what could educators do to help them use this ability in schools?

    I think it is important for educators to teach students how to critically think and reflect on their learning to improve upon the task they are working on. Students need to learn how to guide themselves and weed through the information and not just passively accept it. To be a critical thinker you must, ask questions, define a problem, examine evidence, analyze biases, and be open to considering other interpretations. If educators successfully teach students to be critical thinkers they will be able to approach any problem or obstacle they face inside or outside of the classroom. As for skills that students may already possess, I think they are curious and have an imagination. These two skills that kind of roll into one , I believe these skills can help them learn in school. Children are naturally curious and have an imagination, if educators help students to strengthen this still by allowing them to be curious. For example, educators can foster this by letting students choose projects, or topics based on their interest or curiosity. Students will construct their own meaning from the topic just as they would outside of the classroom.

  3. Study Question: Have you attempted any form of neriage or consensus building discussions in your teaching? What does it take for you to help your students engage in rich conceptual discussions with each other?

    I have used the neriage consensus buiding discussion activities in writing and math. In writing, I've recently realized the impact of using student compositions as anchor papers for good and bad examples. Before I used student work, I would write the example with obvious mistakes that I thought students would make (i.e. spelling, grammar, punctuation), but it didn't have the same impact and "buy in" as when I used examples from students in the class. Prior to introducing the student examples I would clearly explain that all student work used as class examples is used to help us become better writers. That we would discuss the successes and challenges of each paper and the authors will remain anonymous unless they want to announce it. Then I like to pick 2 or 3 examples ranging from A to C level. Sometimes I'd make individual copies and students would work in pairs to discuss each paper then share out with the class for a whole class discussion, and other times we'd simply work with 1 class example at a time. Because it was a classmate's work that was being used, there was more ownership in the discussion and the whole process than when I used my teacher example.

    I also found the neriage or consensus building discussions really beneficial with my CGI math instruction. Before the professional development training in CGI my math instruction was very similar to what was described in the book, check homework; Demonstrate, practice, review, then assess. Of course I made every effort to make the lessons dynamic, engaging, and accessible for all learners, but despite all of that many students still didn't retain WHY they were doing certain mathematical processes. For example, why do we do long division? But CGI, or Cognitively Guided Instruction, is very similar to the Japanese math lesson. Many skills are wrapped up in one open-ended problem and the true math is how students are able to explain their thinking. An example would be instead of the teacher introducing multiplication, a real-word problem would be asked. "Four puppies were playing at the park. Each puppy brought two toys. How many toys were there?" Depending on students' mathematical developmental abilities they would solve them different ways, from counting on fingers, using blocks, drawing actual puppies and toys, acting it out, etc. Then I would have them discuss and share their method, sometimes to the whole class or with a partner. We'd discuss the effectiveness of different methods, and they would be introducing methods to each other instead of it coming directly from me. Research found that by learning from each other it was more meaningful then simply "doing it the teacher's way because that's what was taught." I really liked teaching math this way and I know students loved it when we did "CGI math".

    Here's an article that explains what CGI is, and how it helps students understand concepts and most importantly, express their thinking process.

  4. STUDY QUESTION: Why could it be the case that simply conveying information to students is not sufficient enough for the students to learn the content? What processes are missing here?

    Now that we are week into class, I think that most of my classmates are aware of my interest – or obsession – in the construction of meaning in the classroom. Simply conveying information to students can be insufficient because according to Dr. Inoue (2012), “Learning requires the students’ internal effort to construct meaning, and without it, meaningful learning does not take place no matter how well the external conditions are set up for the student” (p. 77). In order for students to actually learn the material I teach them, they have to utilize it and be able to construct meanings from this new information.

    I think that the concept of meaningful learning is especially important to my work with adult ELLs. Learning a new language is a complex process, but I think that the most efficient way of ensuring lasting knowledge is to create opportunities for meaningful learning in the classroom. I want my students to be able to relate new vocabulary, phrases, and sentence structures to their actual lives. I also hope that they will be able to find connections between English and their own native languages because this might give any new knowledge greater importance. Additionally, I want my students to be able to use the concepts I teach them to construct their own knowledge – for example, I would like them to be able to construct new sentences and carry on conversations using phrases they have never used previously. In this way, they will be learning new content by constructing their own meanings.

  5. Chapter 5 Study Question

    Why is it the case that adult are not as smart as young children in adapting to new situations and developing new knowledge? What makes us lose such smartness as we grow up?

    As adults, we rely what we view as logic to solve problems. We use the same means of problem solving for every problem. We are quick to judge ways of solving problems unless they make sense to our minds. I caught myself thinking, “that won’t work” when I was watching the students build their rafts in “Children Full of Life” video. Their way of building rafts didn’t make sense to my narrow and rigid ideas of building a raft to float. Conversely, children are open to all kinds of ways of solving one problem. The textbook reads, “their flexibility and willingness to try an accept new ways of doing things” (Inoue, p.84).
    I think as we grow up, we start to be told from parents and teachers, “that won’t work”, when tackling a science experiment, math problem, painting, etc. Our creativity is stifled and therefore we begin to think very narrowly in solving problems. In terms of learning a new language, we are so set in the rules of our native language the ways in which other languages work don’t make sense so therefore we fight it or give on it. All in all, children are smarter because their openness, flexibility, adaptability and creativity at tackling all sorts of situations.

  6. Why is it the case that adults are not as smart as young children in adapting to new situations and developing new knowledge? What makes us lose such smartness as we grow up?

    I think that it is not the case that adults are not as smart as young children when it comes to adapting to new situations and developing new knowledge. I think adults and children are both equally smart, but children are more open minded and willing to learn and adults are more closed minded and some feel like they already learned how to handle new situations and don’t need to develop new knowledge. I think what makes us loose that open-mindedness as we grow up is the expectations that we carry as adults (and teachers) to have answers to everything and know how to solve all problems. As we grow up we also get comfortable in certain situations and with what we know, so we resist change and are hesitant to accept the change that is inevitable.

    In my opinion, the more open an adult is to new situations and change the more likely they will be to develop new knowledge and continue to grow and learn which will help in adapting to new situations. The more willing we are as adults (and teachers) to say “I don’t know” or accept that we cannot control a situation the more we can benefit from new situations. As long as we are always willing to learn and accept when we do not know something, and the more uncomfortable we are willing to be in changing and adapting to a new situation, the “smarter” we adults will be.

  7. STUDY QUESTION: Why could it be the case that simply conveying information to students is not sufficient enough for the students to learn the content? What processes are missing here?

    Simply conveying information to students is not always enough for students to learn the content because not all students can deeply process, learn and master information that is just told to them. Some students may be listening to what the teacher is saying but thinking about it at higher level and deeply processing/learning it. In order for a student to deeply process/ learn new information, the student must relate the new information to prior experiences, generating there own ideas of the new information, and make their own meaning of the new information. When student skip this step, the new information does not stick and is not learned.

    One way teachers can help students reach this step, is by providing opportunities for students to utilize and practice the information that was convey them on there own. This will allow them to explore it and reflect on prior knowledge and experience to make sense of it. When students are able to do this, they are able to reach understanding. For example if a teacher is teaching multiplication to her students. She must explain the concept to them, provide some examples of multiplication, then have the students try and make sense of multiplication problems on their own without teacher help.