Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Final Reflection

As I reflect over the content of this book, the big idea seems to be the capacity of our working memory and how we can alter or use it most efficiently. Willingham offers wonderful information as well as useful examples that help to explain his cognitive principles.

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

Final Reflection

I felt like the book was a reminder of things we probably all know. The hard part is remembering to continually practice these things and not fall into a comfort zone. It is hard to remember sometimes that students, just like adults, are more likely to remember things that emotionally affected them. It is easier to say, "We went over this, and then we practiced it, and they still can't remember!" Background knowledge was an important section in the book too. It really made me think of standardized tests and how hard they must be for students who don't have a lot of world experience. I think, however, the most important thing to take away from the book is that students don't like school because of the way it is often presented to them. All to often, it doesn't fit into their schema, it doens't appeal to their emotions, and it doesn't engage them the way they want. Furthermore, the author drives this point home in the final section where he asks all teachers to reflect more on themselves and how they are teaching. The book truly was a lesson in practicing, reflecting, and improving your teaching methods every day using science and statistics.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Section 6, Chapter 9: What about my mind?

In chapter nine, Willingham addresses the teacher as a learner and his or her impacts on students. He begins by restating a key principle that if you wish to improve you must practice. Willingham writes, "Teaching, like any complex cognitive skill, must be practiced to be improved." With that he reviews the idea that for memory to be effectively used you must first have sufficient room in your working memory, but you must also have the right factual and procedural knowledge in your long term memory. He then makes the connection that to be an effective teacher you must be able to balance information between working memory and procedural knowledge. For example, procedures such as handing out papers falls under the stored procedures in your long term memory. Other items like pedagogical knowledge are classified as important as well. Willingham asserts, however, that this knowledge is not truly useful if you do not use your memory to improve and practice your teaching.

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

Final Reflection

Why Don’t Students Like School – Final Reflection

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.