Thursday, April 13, 2006

Your Thoughts on the Articles

The following are quotes that I pulled from each of the three articles we read today. You can choose to respond to the quote from the article you read, or to any of the quotes that you'd like to comment on (whether you've had time to read the other articles or not). If you'd rather respond to something in the articles other than the quotes I pulled, that's fine as well. The emphasis in each quote is added by me.

From Structuring Learning Around Primary Concepts: The Quest for Essence
We are all responsible for our own learning. The teacher's responsibility is to create educational environments that permit students to assume the responsibility that is rightfully and naturally theirs. (p. 49)
From How Experts Differ from Novices
Expertise in a particular domain does not guarantee that one is good at helping others learn it. In fact, expertise can sometimes hurt teaching because many experts forget what is easy and what is difficult for students. Recognizing this fact, some groups who design educational materials pair content experts with "accomplished novices" whose area of expertise lies elsewhere: their task is to continually challenge the experts until the experts' ideas for instruction begin to make sense to them. (p. 6 of our copy of the article)
From The Design of Learning Environments
If teaching is conceived as constructing a bridge between the subject matter and the student, learner-centered teachers keep a constant eye on both ends of the bridge. The teachers attempt to get a sense of what students know and can do as well as their interests and passions - what each student knows, cares about, is able to do, and wants to do. (p. 3 of our copy of the article)


  1. Look at me...posting first! I must be done with my grading. (ha ha)

    I think the language in the first quote is powerful; "permit students to assume the responsibility that is rightfully and naturally theirs." How interesting to use resonsibility and the word right together. I love this concept and see that the students don't see it that way.
    They feel that responsibility, homework, expectations, etc. are all things forced upon them that they simply have to deal with. Instead, it is my responsibility to create an environment where students feel an investment in their learning. I am not there, but certainly want to be closer.

  2. I agree with Michele that students often see what we define as a "responsibility" as something that's forced upon them. Coming back to the other discussion on grades, for students to take their assignments seriously instead of just playing the point game, the sense of responsibility must come from within.

    All three of the quotations Karl included made me wonder why the default structure of the classroom is desks in rows; this establishes the teacher as the "expert" and the students as the empty vessels; even in a discussion, all comments must go through the teacher, and conversation becomes a ping-pong game in which the teacher takes on all 30 students. Why not leave the desks in a large circle or in clusters to emphasize that though we're all in different places, we're all on equal ground as learners?

  3. In regards to the class discussion we had about these articles, I'd like to thank Brad for teaching me about "planned obsolescence"...

    I was struck by the section Karl chose from the Novice vs. Expert article. During my education methodologies classes in college, we often talked about how some college professors--although experts of their subject--were poor teachers. They knew their subject, they just never learned how to teach it to us. The professors I loved were the ones that taught their classes like high school. More hands on, more discussions, etc. This should then be true at the lower levels too. How do we structure our classes to look like they did back when kids loved to learn? How can I make my students learn high school content in an elementary school environment? I think Kristin's right...moving my desks out of rows would be a great place to start.

  4. I think that the culture of the school has to change in order for the students to buy in to learning for the sake of learning. Students tend to prioritize their homework based on the effect that it has on their grade. If I have a class that is not based on points but another class has a huge test or project that has a dramatic effect on their grade, what do you think the students will choose? I would like to think that the students will buy in to doing the work in order to learn but there is still the reward for good grades not knowledge.

  5. I 100% agree with James in that the culture of the school as to buy into this-isn't that where we're kind oh heading? As for the first quote-that seems to be the ideal. With the units I am doing as of now (nquiry based) whre the kids have to form their own meaning, I feel that they WILL and MUST take the responsibility for their own learning in these units-that's the whole point.
    It's like Jeff Wilhelm says, who I am basing this teaching method off of: this is not a direct quote but comes from his thoughts-
    "kids need to invest in their learning-and the only way we create that is to make the things we teach socially acceptable and relevant to their lives NOW! They will not buy in to their own learning if they cannot stake their ground as individuals and see real world application to their lives." Whether it be a novel, unit in science, some hisorical aspect, math equation-we cannot get kids to learn if we don't let them claim'what is naturally theirs.' I have seen such great use int his and it propels their thinking forward-it allows them to make new connections, explore ideas, question new things, ask sub-questions-It's wonderful, and something I am willing to share, even though it is something I am trying that is new!

  6. Cara, I too am grateful to Brad for making "planned obsolescence" clear. I am impressed you knew how to spell it (I copied and pasted it from you).

    I also agree with Cara regarding the "Novice vs. Expert". I am thinking back to high school and college. The teachers that were "experts", or nerds as we called them, in their fields were many times the weakest teachers. They knew their subject so well and loved it so much that they had a hard time relating to those of us who didn't share the jubilation that they did. I believe the best subjects I took, especially in college, were those taught by TA's or the actual methods classes (taught by real teachers). There was a spark and it seemed that the instructors were there to learn right a long with us.

  7. In response to Kristin's comment about desks in rows as opposed to other setups, I am not sure it would make a difference for me except for certain activities where a different setup is necessary. I guess the idea of desks in clusters brings back unpleasant memories of my first year teaching! But I think even in different setups, the teacher is not on the same level as the students, either physically or otherwise. However, each teacher should definitely choose what works for him or her.

  8. Finally a chance to post. I agree with Kristin about creating a classroom environment where we are all on the same playing field. Students want to be seen as adults so why not treat them that way. For example, like students, I sit in a desk to do some work but I am allowed to move around and discuss ideas with my colleagues because that is the environment our department has created. Why not create the same environment in a classroom where they are allowed to see evryone and listen to everyone not confined to their 2 foot by 2 foot board of particle board. This would allow theam to also see learning as a process where all are "responsible" and the focus is not just on the teacher.

  9. I found the article about "primary concepts" to be very interesting. The statement that caught my attention stated that "big ideas and broad concepts provides multiple entry points for students". This makes sense. When there is a big concept being discussed the teacher is presenting the concept, but not dictating exactly what each student will gain from that lesson. Each student can connect to that concept in a manner which best suits them. This works very well in history, where so many ideas come together at one point and time.

  10. Because there has been, as of yet, no successful planned obsolescence of grading my law project, I respectfully decline to blog on this one.