Have you ever tried to unlearn something? Unlearning deliberately what you already can do? It is almost impossible. What you can stays with you; as a routine it may be wear over time, get rusty; but once initiated again it will get going. Take for instance driving a car manually again after a prolonged time, or writing with a fountain pen after ages of typing on a keyboard. Probably unlearning is not possible at all (a psychology of the brain will probably say something about rewiring, as if…(1). And what about unlearning what you know? Forgetting – we can do that. But deliberately? Erasing your memory; computers can, but humans? An interesting case is presented in an article by a prominent Australian educationalist looking back on her work over the last 25 years to find developments in her thinking and changes in her views on educating teachers. She acknowledges that her perspective on professional learning has changed quite substantially; roughly speaking from an individualistic, reflective view on learning to a peer to peer, and interactive way; stressing the importance of implicit learning.
The article gives some memorable and worthwhile reflections. What is striking though is that only in a small, final commentary a word is given to a positioning of her changing views. However, apart from having experienced ‘a sustaining space’ no reference is made on how progressing views were dealt with.
Insights may change and views can grow more mature during the course of a career but one wonders; what is done with the old? Is it forgotten, abandoned, discarded, and ignored, or what? How does one deal with what once was cherished but now has worn out? Is the answer: “when I was a child, I thought like a child, now I am a man I …” One way to cope is to disregard and start over; another is blaming it on accumulated wisdom, or age. But the point is: it is still there, in need of reconciliation. Somehow we are emotionally attached to the ideas that are in need of replacement (2). When unlearning is not possible; embedding is.
Rosie Le Cornu (2016) Professional experience: learning from the past to build the future, Asia-Pacific Journal of Teacher Education, 44:1, 80-101,
To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/1359866X.2015.1102200
Falling in love with one’s own views is potentially harmful; especially if one wants to act upon them. But how does one avoid becoming Pygmalion? Certainly not by ignoring blind spots. Not to see the obvious can occur easily when one operates too long, too isolated in the same mode of conduct. Every profession, teaching not excluded, falls into the deception of not seeing “The Elephant in The Room”. For that reason we have our professional development programs, one might say. However knowledge and reflection, and even sharing of experiences are not enough. So, how to proceed then?
The cited article acknowledges the detrimental effects of working solo as a professional and designed a PD program within which teachers learned to look at instructional events more closely. Video clips (cases) were shown to which the teachers had to react and interpret them from the view point of raising the task involvement of students. The program was quite successful in that teachers became observant of what was going on in instructional events and could make sense of what they saw.
Video (training) is known to be a powerful instrument in teacher change (1) . Showing video clips of other teachers or, even stronger, confronting teachers with their own classroom videos, either discussed individually or in a group of teachers (being familiar with each other or not) are operative modes of confronting the Elephant in the Room.
Learning to look and notice (2) is what videos are excellent at. But Pygmalion knew that the act of looking can be a deceiving thing. One looks at what one wants to see. Chasing the Elephant away would require to stir up prevalent modes of conduct, not just views. In that respect the tearing down of solo performance, to which the article took position, is an addition to the professional development program that proved its worth.
Learning to See Teaching in New Ways: A Foundation for Maintaining Cognitive Demand by Miray Tekkumru Kisa & Mary Kay Stein
American Educational Research Journal, February 2015, Vol. 52, No. 1, pp. 105–136
www.DOI: 10.3102/0002831214549452 ; AERA. http://aerj.aera.net
Looking into a mirror for a critical inspection, we do it many times a day. No harm in knowing how we are doing. It is a private thing and we do not allow many others to know what we know, unless of course we have a “trusted other” who may peek: “Mirror, mirror on the wall who is the most fairy of them all”. There is a painting by Manet of Olympia, a goddess of beautiful perfection showing how she waves aside a mirror that is handed to her. She knows she is perfect, no need for further assessment. But we mortals alas need to be informed how we are doing. A Trusted Other is more than welcome.
And there are helping agents who are willing to hold a mirror. The study cited found that more than 90% of the teachers supported student self-assessment and were willing to deploy it in their classrooms. This is an exceptionally positive outcome, and according to the authors a reassuring finding for fostering learning in students. Such a high favoritism on part of teachers for self-assessment needs to be explained and the article gives 5 plausible backgrounds: (1) positive experience, (2) high belief in students, (3) willingness to include, (4) advantages and (5) attending courses.
Still the feeling remains: why are teachers so positive? What is it that brings them to embrace it. It cannot be that students are doing their job, i.,e. assessing grades. Or that teachers get tired of pointing out the same defects in study behaviors over and over again. There must be a deeper level to the self-reports explaining why. I can only guess, but it must have something to do with the teaching profession itself, since almost all teachers in the survey agree. Probably it has to do with being a pedagogue (1) , a trusted other whose main incentive it is to foster understandings, to hold a mirror. I wonder if it was not apparent somewhere in the self reports: the pride of teaching.
Teachers’ reasons for using self-assessment: a survey self-report of Spanish teachers
Ernesto Panadero, Gavin Brown & Matthew Courtney
In: Assessment in Education Principles, Policy & Practice, 21:4, 365-383,
To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/0969594X.2014.919247
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.
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,