Like Teacher, Like Pupil

vis

It is a great thing, of course, when you really can connect with your teacher, experience classroom as a comfort zone where you may thrive and succeed. It certainly helps when it comes to learning (1) . But what if not? A lot needs to be in place before feeling okay with your teacher. Not in the least how your teacher responds to you. Does s(h)e knows the real you when it comes to: your preferred style in learning, your favorite interests, your fears in coping with assignments, your learning troubles,  the issues you have with your classroom peers?  Good teachers come a long way in their ‘knowledge of the learner’, but, say with addressing 30 of you in a class, it is demanding. It is almost impossible to satisfy all demands to the full. After all, teachers are humans too. They have preferences and styles of their own which shape the classroom to make it a ‘home’ for all students. The truth is some students thrive better than others in the livable space a teacher creates in a classroom. This would become a real disaster when teachers all would be Pygmalion (the sculptor who fell in love with his own sculpture). Unfortunately, there is evidence to the fact that they are.

An Israeli study assessed teachers’ motivation to teach, specifically with regard to their preference on student autonomy. It turned out that teachers who are high in autonomous motivation themselves stress autonomous learning in their students and adopt an autonomy-supportive style in their teaching, expecting that student are taking control over their own learning.

If teachers were sculptors the obvious inference would be that teachers should encourage learning styles in their students similar to their own. Moreover, because we, in general, favor independent learning and autonomous motivation in students (3) we need to hire teachers who have such a preference. The study’s conclusion seems to point in that direction. Perfect matches are nice but also highly unlikely, certainly when you look at a classroom community. You will find a rich variation in styles, motivation, preferences, and needs. It is not so much that we need to redirect this variation into one liking. It would be better to accept them and help teachers to deal with them for the benefit of student learning . After all teachers are not sculptors.

Source

What makes a motivating teacher? Teachers’ motivation and beliefs as predictors of their autonomy-supportive style by: Idit Katz, Bat-Hen Shahar, in: School Psychology International 2015, Vol. 36(6) 575–88 sagepub.co.uk/ DOI: 10.1177/0143034315609969

untitled-1

Referencing

  1. http://www.wikihow.com/Create-a-Positive-Classroom-Atmosphere
  2. http://www.shmoop.com/pygmalion/
  3. http://www.learnnc.org/lp/editions/linguafolio/5574

 

Lessons in Comprehension

tree

Will we ever learn from each other even when we do not share the same opinions?  “Love thy neighbour” is a disturbing maxim (1) but still also IS the cornerstone of our human condition (2). Accepting the other as a person will protect us from ‘world alienation’. However, the public sphere, be it a football match or a school yard, not easily exhibits occurrences of the maxim. More likely we encounter group closure and exclusion, often disguised and highly implicit. To comprehend this inconsistency in our human condition one could speak of ‘the paradox of embedded hegemony’ (See article). By this it is referred to a process in which those who belong to the dominant group (i.e, culture) fall into the trap of regarding their way of thinking and beliefs as self-evident and ‘normal’  up to a point that diversions are not accepted any more. Ultimately, those in hegemony or power tend to push the ‘other’ out of the nest. It becomes a paradox for sure when those pushed away accept the exerted dominance as part of that ‘nest’ and typical of that public realm leading them to resistance and alienation. It would mean that sharing of opinion and interest would become almost impossible. And moreover: even wanting to learn from each other would evaporate.

To deconstruct the paradox a study was set up to develop empathic space. Synergic Inquiry (SI) was used as an action research strategy that helps people understand characteristics on which they differ.  SI sets Self-Knowing, Other-Knowing, Holding and Transcending Difference. Students participated in program for 6 months which was structured around the educator’s ‘hyperawareness’ of creating empathic space. The program had a substantial impact on “ultimately smoothing a path toward unifying participants’ perspectives”.

What is striking in the findings of the study though is the critical role of the educator in maintaining ‘unified perspectives’ ; suggesting that only an ‘Amor Mundi’ (3) can be reached temporary, and without surveillance will fall back in a Love of MY World. Can the paradox only be resolved in an enduring way by having a mediator, is a controller desired?  To learn to love the world as it is and accept thy neighbor is a hell of a job for an educator to accomplish. Probably lessons in comprehension will not do it on their own.

Source

Do I Really Know You? Do You Really Know Me? Empathy amid Diversity in Differing Learning Contexts by Elizabeth Kasl and Lyle Yorks.  Adult Education Quarterly 2016, Vol. 66(1) 3–20

sagepub.com/journals Permissions.nav DOI: 10.1177/0741713615606965

Untitled-1

Referencing

  1. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0068096/
  2. http://isocracy.org/content/review-hannah-arendt-human-condition

Like A Fish In Water

swim

Education is talk. Talk is what makes teaching and learning go. It is all around us when a group of students works together on an assignment, or when a teacher explains something, or when a response is given to a question in a learning conversation. Talk is so self evident in instruction we almost take it for granted “like the air around us”.  But how we talk and in what manner we conduct a conversation will make it really a learning conversation (1). Talk in education is meant to express yourself in a content-related, domain-specific way; so others, i.e., your fellow students, your teacher understand, i.e, not misinterpret, what you mean. In a way it is accurate talk. Imagine following topic to be discussed:

Teacher (T): Can you tell me what stars in the universe are made of? Student (S): hot gases, I think? Or alternatively: T: In the universe stars are composed of certain gases, who can name a few of these gases more precisely by name? S: I know of Hydrogen.., and Helium..

The manner of these two conversations is creating a wide dispersion in learning potential. Whereas the first just taps a response to an inexplicit initiation, the second promotes thinking about retrieving the proper answer based on what is learned.

A recent position paper in the journal Kappa Delta Pi Record urges us to pay particular attention to how talk and conversation evolves in the classroom. To maintain a high level of ‘conceptual exchange’ (2) teachers can have a huge impact on the preciseness and detail they request of an educational conversation. So, unless teachers look closely at how they conduct talks they will not be able to help student to express themselves in a knowledgeable way.

It is so easy sliding into ‘engaging’ modes of asking and responding. But the words that are spoken affect the way students understand, and therefore a wakeup call for teachers to be aware of how they conduct conversations is needed to support the talking to learn. It is a bit like a fear of swimming in deeper waters, once gripped it opens new possibilities.

Source

Gisela Ernst-Slavit & Kerri J. Wenger (2016) Surrounded by Water: Talking to Learn in Today’s Classrooms, Kappa Delta Pi Record, 52:1, 28-34, DOI:10.1080/00228958.2016.1123042

To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00228958.2016.1123042

Untitled-1

Referencing

  1. http://www.worldcat.org/title/learning-conversations-the-value-of-interactive-learning/oclc/501747888
  2. https://tlcwebinars.wordpress.com/

Offering Space

paint

No one likes to be told what to do, or say, or believe. Of course not. Still, we are being ordered, coerced, or persuaded all the time. Be it sneaky or overt, concealed or blunt, convincing or forced. Main reason for our dislike is that it is confronting, and ultimately implying that “we must change our lives” (1). But what if we do not want to adjust, or follow imperatives stated for us? What if the required changes conflict with our beliefs and orientation? In education, and other helping professions, this creates a huge dilemma. A mentor, a teacher in interaction with a student, would like to point out certain learning needs, specific learning problems but this takes effect only when acknowledged by the mentee, the learner. One interesting aspect of this huge (helping) dilemma is the part that deals with the interaction between helper and the one being helped. Are they both accepting, acknowledging each other point of view? Are they creating space for bridging between another? In interactions between an advice giver and a mentee there can/will be inequality in power and position. Therefore, a bridging relationship calls for cognitive justice (2); that is, recognition of integrity in knowledge creation which starts by creating space to allow for expression of views. You cannot “force to know”.
A matter of concern would be the case when bridging faults, when the space in-between is too wide. Then the twain will never meet. An illuminative study in counseling helps to clarify this concern. It looked into the position and role of a counselor interacting with Black Pentecostal clients. These clients belong to a faith group with strong convictions and emotional ways of interaction. The study points to the importance of creating space by 1) counsellor awareness of personal cultural identity, 2) counsellor awareness of the client’s cultural identity, 3) setting up a working alliance, and 4) recognizing social justice as the foundation for practice.

Still this does not illuminate how space making would work. May be it is simply (although it never really is) to be invitational in interaction (3). Inviting to: express, clarify, show, maintain …, there are a myriad of ways to engage in interaction that allow for making a space that invites. The core of it would be: not telling what to do, say or believe but listening to what the other says, does or thinks, … in order to…

Source
Sandra Dixon & Nancy Arthur; (2015). Creating Space to Engage Black Pentecostal Clients in Multicultural Counselling Practices Published online: 19 December 2014 by Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014. Published in: Int J Adv Counselling (2015) 37:93–104; DOI 10.1007/s10447-014-9228-x

summary32

Referencing
1. http://politybooks.com/book.asp?ref=9780745649214
2. http://www.learningforchange2015.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/fin29-4-15Cognitive-justice-presentation-Gert-vd-Westhuizen.pdf
3. http://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-94-6300-058-1_10

Bringing Down Goliath

goliath

Mastering a task calls for a suitable strategy. Do you approach a problem incrementally or instantaneously? In small steps from a clear starting point or just plunge in in the middle? Some mathematics teachers recommend the last: “go and search the invariants”, they say; other teachers prefer the ‘looking for the knowns’. Selecting the most educational method for their students is of critical concern for teachers. What brings most for the kids given their progress made and current level is a matter of careful decision making (1). One approach tackling this teaching problem is starting from the front end (beginning at a previous point learnt) and progress slowly till the back end, but you might get stuck along the way. The lesson learnt from the study on creativity is that thinking “outside the box” is (sometimes) preferable. When teachers see a child struggling with an assignment it might therefore be a good thing to ‘reset’ and think all over again, taking a different perspective (2) . A lesson well learnt to bring down a nasty problem to manageable proportions. The snack is that it only works well when you bring in knowledge from other domains, i.e, making it all more complex (for a while). That is teacher decision making at it best.

Source
Where to Look? Creative Self-Efficacy, Knowledge Retrieval, and Incremental and Radical Creativity
By K S. Jaussi, & A E. Randel.
CREATIVITY RESEARCH JOURNAL, 26(4), 400–410, 2014
Copyright # Taylor & Francis Group,
http://DOI: 10.1080/10400419.2014.961772

summary7

Referencing
1. http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1987084.Discovering_New_Dimensions_in_the_Teaching_Process
2. https://depts.washington.edu/nwcenter/lessonsclassroomdp.html

Got stuck? Ask help!

DSC02192jpg

Maddening devices computers can be. Or help desks, or trying to explain your complaint to a service desk. Anger management is called for in these situations. But who will deploy them in awkward and stressful situations? The study cited gives some background on what works and what not.
The answer to deal with anger has mainly to do with self-regulation (1), it seems. Luckily the study gives some handles on what to do: arranging your environment (but who can?); monitoring your motivation (“I will get through”), and having a learning orientation (by saying “this is really an interesting situation”). In anger management the study found no gender effects looking at online group work. Apparently face to face interactions matter in this respect. Cultural differences in setting (by comparing US and Chinese students) did take an effect. Comments made by your peers (even online) had a considerable corrective effect.
But what if you got stuck?; which often triggers anger and despair. The study gives a captivating and worrying outcome: in order not to jeopardize peer relationships Chinese students did not seek help or call for information from their peers. If that is true and when we relativize the Cultural we are dealing with the nasty occurrence of being stuck, and not being able to bootstrap ourselves using self-regulation strategies. It means that you are at a dead end. Call for help would be the adequate coping strategy (2) but it needs courage to do so. Let’s realize: Group work (online or in vivo) is flourishing in schools but what if you fall behind in the group you are working with? And who monitors (silent) help seeking requests? (3). I would say: Teacher know your students.

 Source
Emotion management in online group work reported by Chinese students, by Jianzhong Xu • Jianxia Du • Xitao Fan ; Published by Springer in : Education Technology Research Development (2014) 62:795–819 ; DOI 10.1007/s11423-014-9359-0
Published online: 16 October 2014; Copyright: Association for Educational Communications and Technology 2014

 summary

 Referencing
1: http://psycnet.apa.org/index.cfm?fa=search.displayRecord&uid=2001-01625-013
2: http://psycnet.apa.org/journals/dev/50/5/1350/
3 http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0959475210000563