Teaching Responsibility

January 5, 2013

I’ve been using standards-based grading in my courses for several semesters and run into a recurring issue regarding student responsibility. While many SBGers use weekly quizzes to determine student proficiency, I’ve opted to have students demonstrate proficiency via projects/papers (some given by me, some student generated). Importantly, I have no due dates for these assignments as I want students to decide when they are ready. I do give some suggested due dates, but I do not enforce them. Again, I want students to make the decision as to when they are ready to meet standards. I believe the ability to accurately self-assess will aid these future teachers’ ability to assess their students.

Semester after semester a recurring theme in my course evaluations is that students want due dates (what this means about the sorry state of education is for a different time). This last semester I was very upfront with students about the “due date” issue & said, “If you need due dates, here are some suggestions, but you need to hold yourself to them.” As expected, students procrastinated, & I again received these same comments on course evaluations.

I am beginning to wonder if I am allowing students’ procrastination to interfere with their learning. My point with having flexible due dates is so students can spend more time on assignments, but I am unconvinced that students are actually spending more time. Thoughts?


Technology Gives and Takes Away

December 30, 2012

From Dan Meyer:

But the very technology that lets Khan Academy assess hundreds of concepts at global scale — random number generators, string splices, and algorithmically generated hints — has downgraded, perhaps unavoidably, what it means to know math.

I hope Dan realized the full weight of his words.  Technology (all technologies) give and take away.  While it’s easy to be critical of the Khan Academy technologies, I hope we learn to be  critical of all the technologies we use in education.


What do we want from educators?

November 23, 2012

Here is a pic from Goodlad’s “A Place Called School”. We must stop pulling educators in opposite directions. We cannot expect movement with equal, but opposite forces being applied.

20121123-154746.jpg


Zombie apocalypse & education

November 17, 2012

I’ll let a excerpt from Larry Cuban’s recent post speak for itself:

The repeated return of mistaken ideas captures well my experiences with technologies in schools and what I have researched over decades. The zombie idea that is rapidly being converted into policies that in the past have been “refuted with evidence but refuse to die” is: new technologies can cure K-12 and higher education problems of teaching and learning. The most recent incarnation of this revolving-door idea is widespread access to online instruction in K-12 education cyber-charter schools, blended schools where online instruction occurs for a few hours a day, and mandated courses that children and youth have to take.


Science, creativity, & literature

October 20, 2012

The nature of science is often misrepresented as dull, straightforward, & overly empirical. Such a view misses important aspects of creativity & intuition in science. Below is an abstract to a recent paper where the author uses insights from Edgar Allen Poe to illuminate the creative side of science. Now the question is, “how do we illuminate these aspects of science for our students?”

Edgar Allan Poe’s standing as a literary figure, who drew on (and sometimes dabbled in) the scientific debates of his time, makes him an intriguing character for any exploration of the historical interrelationship between science, literature and philosophy. His sprawling ‘prose-poem’ Eureka (1848), in particular, has sometimes been scrutinized for anticipations of later scientific developments. By contrast, the present paper argues that it should be understood as a contribution to the raging debates about scientific methodology at the time. This methodological interest, which is echoed in Poe’s ‘tales of ratiocination’, gives rise to a proposed new mode of—broadly abductive—inference, which Poe attributes to the hybrid figure of the ‘poet-mathematician’. Without creative imagination and intuition, Science would necessarily remain incomplete, even by its own standards. This concern with imaginative (abductive) inference ties in nicely with his coherentism, which grants pride of place to the twin virtues of Simplicity and Consistency, which must constrain imagination lest it degenerate into mere fancy.


Learning to Walk

October 20, 2012

The following abstract came across my google reader today. What are the insights you’re seeing for learning/teaching in K-16 education?

A century of research on the development of walking has examined periodic gait over a straight, uniform path. The current study provides the first corpus of natural infant locomotion derived from spontaneous activity during free play. Locomotor experience was immense: Twelve- to 19-month-olds averaged 2,368 steps and 17 falls per hour. Novice walkers traveled farther faster than expert crawlers, but had comparable fall rates, which suggests that increased efficiency without increased cost motivates expert crawlers to transition to walking. After walking onset, natural locomotion improved dramatically: Infants took more steps, traveled farther distances, and fell less. Walking was distributed in short bouts with variable paths—frequently too short or irregular to qualify as periodic gait. Nonetheless, measures of periodic gait and of natural locomotion were correlated, which indicates that better walkers spontaneously walk more and fall less. Immense amounts of time-distributed, variable practice constitute the natural practice regimen for learning to walk.


Flipped Class – a student perspective

October 18, 2012

Below are some thoughts from one of my former middle school students who is now in high school & in a flipped classroom. I’ll let her words speak for themselves, but think her words speak to the state of science education well beyond the flipped class model.

My opinion on the flipped classroom varies for certain situations. I enjoy the freedom the flipped classroom gives me and I’m able to easily keep up with our everyday schedule. But, for students that have trouble learning from just a couple videos don’t do as well. It seems like every other day the teacher is spending the class period catching up the students who fell behind. This method really only benefits that small percentage of students who are able to memorize the notes they take on the videos we’re given.

I really have not learned anything in Chemistry. I’ve been giving the periodic table to memorize and a test on it after. We are told where they are, but not what they do or why they are there. Our assignments are usually made up of videos of OTHER people on the internet talking about some topic. We then have to take several notes on the videos and then are given a quiz the next day. The whole process is completed. My class has had a few labs that I litterally can’t remember what it was about. All our teacher did was showed us how to do the lab and then we just grouped up and copied her. She expects us to learn something from the labs. But, I don’t know how to learn from something that we were never given the reason WHY we need to do it.

The problem is that the teacher doesn’t guide us to learn something. We’re just given information to memorize knowing that less than a week away the information will just be forgotten. Our teacher has not even told us one thing about chemistry that will actually help us learn. She completely relys on other people’s work to “teach” us. I would have to say I learn more against the flipped classroom than with it. The method does have small benefits, but the flipped classroom mostly hurts the learning enviroment for every student.


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