Semesters over

Well, the semester is over. I have finished marking your blogs, and I have been impressed. Well done.

A couple of suggestions for next year have emerged, and I want to talk about them.

The first would have me giving several lectures scattered throughout the semester. I am not planning to do this, because what would I say? Would I simply confirm everything you said in your talks and blogs? I think what you are suggesting is an appeal to authority in order to confirm what you are doing and saying. I think that the blogs, themselves, have been self-regulating. What could I add that would improve what was already happening?

The second suggestion is related to the first. This is to have some “guest lecturers” come in to speak to the class. We did. How many on-line talks were recommended over the course of the semester? I was thinking that I might suggest a TED (or other) talk each week, but decided that wasn’t a great idea. Unconsciously, it would suggest to you what I wanted you to talk about. I think it would stifle the rich variety of discussion that took place. I might put up a list early of on-line talks etc. that students can watch as sources of inspiration throughout the semester.

One thing I will do next year is participate in the discussions. I was dying to say things all semester long, but refrained because I promised you that I would. I think I might begin to comment on topics about half way through the semester, once the new students get used to the way the class runs. I think if I start commenting too early, the power relationship will stifle discussion. However, once you got used to the to and fro discussion, I think I could chip in.

When the class starts next year (Feb 2012), if you are available, you are more than welcome to log on to our new site and have fun again. The blog is already registered and will be found at:

sciol12.wordpress.com

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Teacher Cognition

I listened to Dan’s talk, and read his blog with interest. For years I have tried to convince teachers to use methods and techniques that rely on evidence rather than on what they have already done. Getting a change in the way a teacher teaches is so difficult, ad teacher cognition explains why. You have to be willing to ignore the way you learned and teach according to what the evidence shows you.

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Remember Dweck

Kevin talked about Dweck, and there was a fair bit of discussion about the labels children might get, and how that may effect their education. During the discussion after one of the talks Monday, we were talking about learning styles and the potential harm they may cause, and it struck me that Dweck is what is wrong with learning styles. Dweck is also what is wrong with multiple intelligences (I think this was alluded to in one of the discussions). Dweck is what is wrong with any of the labels that get attached to students during their learning. If I am a visual learner, that means I am unable to succeed with any other type of presentation. If I have a great deal of emotional intelligence, I can’t succeed in any other area.

As Dweck made clear, it doesn’t matter what the reality is (e.g. no such thing as learning styles effecting ability), all that matters is what an individual believes. If I believe that I have mechanical abilities, but not academic abilities, then that is what I am, and nothing that I do can change that.

We must be so careful with the labels we use.

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This week

Many excellent entries. So many that I’m not going to point any out. I continue to be impressed (as are some of my colleagues).

However, there have been a couple of frustrations that have come to my attention.

1) Many of you are blogging very late in the week (late Monday night with marking Tuesday morning). This means that you get few comments to respond to, and a number of your classmates who would like to receive credit for their very insightful comments don’t because of the timing (I simply don’t have the time to mark previous weeks entries).

2) Some of you still haven’t unchecked the comments box in your settings. This means that you have to approve all comments before they can be seen. Given the timing issue I addressed above, this means that a number of comments don’t ever get marked. This is unfair to both yourself and your colleagues. If you can’t figure it out, come by and see me and I’ll show you how (I won’t bite – I promise).

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Sacred cows (the curriculum)

I am reading about how hard teachers work to cover the curriculum (the sacred cow) but only one blog about the curriculum, and it not really about how good it is. If you are planning to enter education as a career, next year you will be bound to the curriculum.

However, this year you can say whatever you want about it. You can redesign it, suggest evolutionary or revolutionary changes, or simply scrap it and start afresh. Think about what the ideal would look like. Don’t accept the politically imposed solution as the only one (unless that is a part of your point).

Stretch yourselves. This is one of the few times in your lives that you will be free to really let loose, and get rewarded for it.

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Problem solving, creativity and so forth…

There has been a number of discussions about these two topics, but one thing I haven’t really noticed is the psychological evidence, and what it says about them. Problem based learning is based on our ability to solve problems, and problem solving is one of the areas of cognitive psychology. What does the research say about problem solving and learning. The same can be said about creativity. Many of you rush headlong into the education journals for the answers, and are then unsatisfied with the results.

Have a look at what basic research into psychology has to say about the problem, and then see if the extracted principles can inform the discussion. You have done this well with the testing effect. Carry on with the rest.

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This week

Some great blog entries to have a look at. Among them, Ben, with his take on oriental approaches to education, Chris, on the effect of education on evolution, Emily J on learning styles, Gareth on problem based learning, Jon, commenting on Sir Ken’s talks, Liam on remembering and understanding, Mikey on a couple of the talks from this week, and Richie clarifying his talk from Monday.

As you will notice, these entries are not necessarily the longest, but I think they are really thought provoking.

Getting your main entry up early provides you with the opportunity to garner comments and reply to comments. I read (and mark) your entries on a Tuesday morning, so get your new entries up on the Tuesday or Wednesday for the next week for the biggest impact.

I have noticed that many of you attribute the 25 principles to Robert Bjork. Although he is included in the writing, the authorship lies with Diane F. Halpern. She is a leading proponent of applying the principles of psychology to education.

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Is this working?

I need to report how well this class is going, and if the method of teaching is effective or not. If you have any opinions about this, could you please leave a comment. I won’t mark these, and (promise) won’t let what you say influence my opinion of you.

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Discovery learning and PBL

Problem Based Learning and discovery learning are (in my opinion) the same thing. I think that both are an excellent way to learn (although uncomfortable for the learner), but cannot be introduced before a foundation is established.

Research also shows that PBL is not good when you have a constrained curriculum. However, if you are more interested in learning than curriculum coverage, it has been shown to be very effective (at least in medical schools).

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Learning and learning

Sam H. had a comment on her blog from Aaron about the extrinsic motivation in learning being grades. I agree with her… up to a point.

Although Aaron begins to touch on learning (as opposed to passing tests), for too many of you, learning = grades, or learning = exams, or learning = whatever. What about just plain learning?

What I mean by that is what an education is supposed to be about. We get caught up in targets, curriculum, streaming, testing, methods, the three bears, and on and on. Do we forget what learning is?

Think about your final year projects. How much have you learned in doing your project? I’m not talking about the papers you’ve read and the writing you are doing (although that is a part of it). I’m talking about the process you have engaged in. You’re not really graded on it (it will be taken into account – blah, blah, blah) but that is the bulk of what you have learned. Working with some of the best in the world, and seeing what and how they do what the do is a huge learning experience. For most of you, your projects take on lives of their own, the motivation becomes intrinsic, and you immerse yourselves in a massive learning opportunity.

When it is finished, what is more important, what you have learned, or the grade you got?

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