Tuesday, December 28, 2010
It is exciting to know that children (and teachers) can always improve themselves by working hard. This is a principle that I teach to my students every year. It is nice to see some research to support what I already knew to be true.
I love the quote "Teaching is an act of persuasion". More and more I am hearing people complain about how kids do not want to learn and they will not do any work. I believe that all children want to learn, but we do not always persuade them to do so. You have to "Know your Audience" as individuals. They are all so unique and have so much to offer if we can just tap into how they work best.
This year I have a student teacher in my classroom and it interesting to watch her interact with the students. Sometimes I wonder why she is not seeing a child's behavior or why she is not reacting to it the way that I would. What Willingham discussed in Chapter 6 about how novices and experts think differently because of what they can do in their working memories made a lot of sense. She is very knowledgeable of content, but watching her try to put that knowledge into practice is sometimes frustrating to her as she thinks she should be able to apply it more effectively. It is great for me to be able to share quotes from this book to help her be more patient with her continued learning. As Willingham also tells us that we need to continue to practice to improve on skills.
I like the suggestions at the end of the book about videotaping our learning and then having a partner to share feedback with to better ourselves as teachers. My student teacher had to videotape herself teaching a lesson last semester and I felt bad for her because I viewed it as being so scary to watch myself. But after reading this last chapter I think I will continue to use it as a teaching tool and modeling to her of what a good reflective teacher does. She can give feedback to me as well as me to her.
I am so glad that I had a chance to read this book. It has provided me with some great insights as a teacher of children, but also as a mentor to my student teacher.
Monday, December 20, 2010
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
The rest of the chapter tackles ways to use memory to practice and become more a more effective educator in the classroom. He stresses again that it is virtually impossible to become proficient at a mental task without extended practice. To practice he suggests a variety of tasks. All of the tasks require personal and outside feedback. He suggests to first find a partner you feel comfortable working with. After finding that partner, he suggests taping yourself teaching. Watch the tape alone and give yourself feedback about what surprises you, what you didn't already know about your class, and yourself. Willingham suggests that you should watch tapes of other teachers together with your partner. After watching other teachers, take the time to comment to one another about what you viewed. After becoming comfortable with your partner, he suggests you watch each others tapes. Finally, Willingham asks that you bring the comments back into your classroom and follow up. One of his last sections asks that you always try to improve and make a conscious effort to continue practicing at being a teacher.
Sunday, December 5, 2010
To be honest, my first thought about this book was that there were a lot of studies shared with us and it made it all a bit overwhelming. However, there were key concepts that I picked out that I feel I can take to my classroom.
• Accept and Act on Variation in Student Preparation – Students come to us with all sorts of different backgrounds and levels of preparedness. As professionals, we need to recognize this and modify as necessary.
• Change the Pace – I get stuck in a routine and I get stuck that we have to keep moving on. I need to remember that I need to switch it up to engage my students and to speed up or slow down based on their needs.
• We Remember Better when Things have Meaning – Sometimes I wonder why we need to know all of this math I can only imagine what students are thinking. I need to improve on creating final projects that will help put meaning to all of this math.
• Background Knowledge – I can’t assume that students are coming to me knowing how to do all the necessary skills. I need to assess that background knowledge before introducing new skills.
• Practice – I need to encourage my students to practice the basic skills to put it in their mental ability to make room for more challenging lessons. Stress that it will help them to reinforce skills, helps them to not forget, and improves transfer.
• Classroom Environment – I loved the analogy that Willingham gave with the TV show House. He talked about all the mistakes Dr. House makes in an episode to get to the right answer. I need to create that environment in my classroom.
• Slow Learners – I need to practice the advice Willingham gave us to help the slow learners. It was a great reminder that the gap won’t be closed overnight but that it takes hard work on everyone’s part (especially the student) to close that gap.
• Keep a Teaching Diary – This would be a great challenge for me to do, but overall I believe that this would help me to become a better teacher.
Monday, November 22, 2010
Sunday, November 21, 2010
Monday, November 15, 2010
Willingham explains the theories of what makes people intelligent. It comes back to the old debate of nature (genetic) vs. nurture (experience). Willingham explains that the thought process in the past was that it was probably both, but mostly genetic. In recent years, that has changed to both, but mostly environmental. He shared some of the results from many tests done on both identical and fraternal twins. It was determined that “genetics seems to play a huge role in general intelligence; that is, our genes seem to be responsible for something like 50 percent of our smarts.” Other aspects were that when twins were separated and placed in a home with greater means, the intelligence level increased but the effect was usually small. He goes on to share a study done in 1982 where intelligence scores went up 21 IQ points. They realized that this had to be more environmental than genetics because a genetic pool doesn’t change that quickly. However, this still didn’t fit with the results from the twins study. He gave the example of twins that were separated but genetically tall. Because of their genetics, there was an interest in basketball for both of them. In both cases, each twin asked parents for basketball things. As a result, they practiced and both of their skills improved. It was concluded that their genetics led them to an environment that included basketball. “Genetic effects can make you seek out or select different environments.” “The key idea here is that genetics and the environment interact. Small differences in genetic inheritance can steer people to seek different experiences in their environments, and it is differences in these environmental experiences, especially over the long term, that have large cognitive consequences.”
Willingham believes that “intelligence can be changed.” He is quick to point out that this isn’t something that can be fixed quickly, but rather over time. He then concludes the chapter with things that we can do in our classroom to help the slow learners.
• Praise Effort, Not Ability - He encourages us to encourage them that intelligence is under their control and can be increased by hard work. He cautions us about dishonest praise.
• Tell Them That Hard Work Pays Off – We need to remind students that the students who do well in school are the ones that work hard and put forth the effort.
• Treat Failure as a Natural Part of Learning – We need to create an environment in our classrooms that makes it ok for students to fail and to teach them that by failing, they are ready to learn.
• Don’t Take Study Skills for Granted – We need to remember that as students continue in their education and that things become more independent that they may not know how to study or manage their time.
• Catching Up is the Long-Term Goal – Remind them that to catch up they must work harder than the brighter students. It is also wise to set up goals that they can reach in a shorter amount of time and to get the help of parents.
• Show Students That You Have Confidence in Them – Set high standards and then praise them when those standards are met. When we praise work that isn’t up to par, we lower our standards for them.
Sunday, November 14, 2010
According to Willington, they are unable to.
He explains in this chapter that “Experts” have a very different way of using their cognition then do “Novices”. When novices are compared to experts, experts have extensive background knowledge that they can use to access the “right” information from long-term memory efficiently, they can transfer what they know to similar situations, and they can solve problems in a reasonable way. The novices have similar background knowledge to the expert, but lack the ability to access it as readily, they are unable to transfer their knowledge to similar situations, and they lack the reasoning necessary to solve problems. He says that experts are able to think abstractly because they are automatic at the things that they have practiced; where as novices can only think at the surface level because they still need to think about everything they are doing. He goes on to say that while novices are using their working memory to think about what to do experts are using their working memory to talk to themselves, thinking about their own understanding and what they can do to make things better.
He says to improve your working memory you have to increase background knowledge and practice time. Researchers have agreed on the ten year rule to be considered an expert, but once you are considered an expert you will only maintain it if you continue to learn and practice. He says that it is important to remember that no one is an expert right away and quotes Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Every artist was once an amateur.”
He talked about how novices (our students) are unable to create new information because of their deficit in thinking abstractly. So he feels that although the creativeness of projects is not successful that creative projects do seem to motivate students. He thinks that “knowledge comprehension” is more likely to be where students are able to be successful thinkers. This makes me wonder what he would think about the revised or original “Bloom’s Taxonomy”.
In chapter 7, Willingham discusses the differentiation of learners that teachers sometimes use talking about cognitive styles versus cognitive ability. He defined cognitive ability as the types of thinking, and cognitive styles as thinking in a certain way. He concluded that the differences between the two don’t matter to teaching.
He gave many examples around the visual-auditory-kinesthetic learner concluding once again that these styles do not mean much to the teacher. He says that children will have a tendency to have stronger visual and auditory memories, but not necessarily that they will learn better by having things presented in a certain way. He does admit that presenting content in different styles throughout the lesson refocuses their attention and therefore makes it more interesting to students.
He states that although differentiation is good and necessary in the classroom, scientists are not able to offer any research as to how to categorize students or what instruction would best suited to each category. He recommends that teachers know best in how to do this in their classrooms.
I thought his comment about not telling a student that he/she is smart was interesting. That he says it will actually make them less smart. I agree with him and have some thoughts as to why this may be true, but I wonder what the research behind it might be?
Thursday, November 11, 2010
The author then talks about solving problems. People who practice math regularly are more likely to remember freshman algebra better than those who do not. Engineers are more likely to remember their old freshman Algebra problems, even though they are doing much more complicated math at work. The more this person practices doing math, the better that person can transfer that information to another problem, and have a better chance to solve that problem.
The author says that students that are more motivated to learn will be able to retain that information for a longer time and increase that opportunity of that learning tranferring to new situations.
Chapter 6 talks about the difference between teaching students facts and information and teaching them to think beyond just the facts and think about why things happen. The author talks about getting students to take information and process it to solve problems. To thinks like mathematicians, scientists, and historians.
The author talks about adjusting teaching styles for different types of learners. The author claims that although all students have different interests and abilities, most students share the same learning style.
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Saturday, November 6, 2010
The chapter starts out with the concerns from teachers about the time factor in teaching skills and preparing for standardized tests. Is fact learning useful or useless? Willingham states that the cognitive principal guiding the chapter is, “Factual knowledge must precede skill.” (pg. 25) He gives examples where having background knowledge on a topic allows the student to learn and remember more taught about that topic. He discusses how background knowledge is stored in long-term memory which aids in critical thinking processes such as reasoning and problem solving. (. 28) He then goes on to talk about how working memory, which has a limited capacity, can keep more stuff it in it by “chunking” together separate pieces of information from the environment. He demonstrates this with examples such as how the letters F B and I can be remembered better if chunked together as FBI. He says, “. . . background knowledge allows chunking, which makes more room in working memory, which makes it easier to relate ideas, and therefore to comprehend.” (p. 35) I agree with his statement, “. . . comprehension depends on background knowledge, and that’s where kids from privileged homes have an edge. They come to school with a bigger vocabulary and more knowledge about the world than underprivileged kids. And because knowing things makes it easier to learn new things, the gap between privileged and underprivileged kids widens.”(p. 37) I see this as a growing concern in our district. We have an increased number of students coming to school each year from lower economic families. He ends the chapter with the following suggestions for helping children learn background knowledge to aid in making cognitive processes work better:
· Be sure that the knowledge base is mostly in place when you require critical thinking,
· Shallow knowledge is better than no knowledge.
· Do whatever you can to get kids to read.
· Knowledge acquisition can be incidental.
· Start early with knowledge.
· Knowledge must be meaningful.
Monday, November 1, 2010
Thursday, October 28, 2010
In this book Mr. Willingham outlines nine principals from his extensive research on cognitive and biological development of the human brain. His goal is to help teachers connect with the developing minds of our students.
In chapter one the principal he talks about is “People are naturally curious, but they are not naturally good thinkers; unless the cognitive conditions are right, we will avoid thinking.” Each principal is then broken down into parts. The first part “The Mind is Not Designed for Thinking” states that thinking is not one purpose our brain serves best and even though were not good at it, we actually like to think. But if we can get away with it, we will rely on memory instead of thinking. Most of the problems we solve are ones that we have done in the past so we do what we have done in the past. Willingham also says that the brain also helps us to see and move and most of the brain is devoted to seeing and movement. He also states that “We are naturally curious, and we look for opportunities to engage in certain types of thought. But because thinking is so hard, the conditions have to be right for this curiosity to thrive, or we quit thinking rather readily.”
The next section of chapter one is “People Are Naturally Curious, but Curiosity is Fragile.” Willingham states that the brain enjoys mental activity in some circumstances and it usually depends on the level of difficulty. If it is too hard we will avoid it and if it is too easy we will lose interest. He says to find the “sweet spot” or the middle ground that grabs their interest and maintain it. Willingham end this section with “Instead of making the work easier, is it possible to make thinking easier?”
The next section is “How Thinking Works.” In this section Willingham states that there are four factors in successful thinking and if any of these factors are inadequate, more than likely thinking will likely fail. The four factors are: “information from the environment, facts in long-term memory, procedures in long-term memory, and the amount of space in working memory.”
In the last section of the chapter “Implications for the Classroom” Willingham recommends seven items that teachers should consider for fully engaging students in the learning process: Be Sure That There Are Problems to Be Solved – identify your challenges and outcomes. Look for negative outcomes. Respect Students’ Cognitive Limits – develop mental challenges but keep in mind cognitive limitations. Clarifying the Problems to Be Solved – develop key questions and make the material relevant to them as much as possible. Reconsider When to Puzzle Students – make them curious but know when to. Accept and Act on Variation in Student Preparation – self-defeating to give all students the same work. Change the Pace – monitor your students engagement and plan shifts. Keep a Diary – Your experience in your classroom is your best guide. Whatever works, do again; Whatever doesn’t discard.
In conclusion the amount of thinking required must be just right to retain a students interest. We as teachers need to know our students in order to plan effective lessons so students don’t become frustrated or bored and end up not liking school.
Sunday, October 24, 2010
Saturday, October 23, 2010
Thursday, October 21, 2010
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
Section One--Due October 28, Larry Aaker
Section Two--Due November 4, Carol Greco
Section Three--Due November 11, Damon Lange
Section Four--Due November 18, Denise McCormick
Section Five--Due December 2, Kathy Norwick
Section Six--Due December 9, Beth Schieffer (Talley)