Archive for ‘questions’

May 11, 2014

Difficult vs. Easy, A Reply

This post is a reply to David Didau (@LearningSpy) – Squaring the Circle: Can Learning Be Easy and Hard?  I urge you to read it because it poses a very good question and he brings, as always, a lot of research to discuss this issue.

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Bjork’s work, that I introduced you to a year or two ago, tends to take over the educational debate, as Willingham’s work does.  Excessive cognitivism (or any other theory of learning) obstructs the bigger picture of learning because it focuses on a limited set of variables or just one in some cases – either internal (e.g. memory), relational (e.g. social learning), emotional, you name them.

Some points.

If performance (what the student does – writes an essay, draws a rectangular prism etc.) is a poor proxy for “learning” (Bjork), then it is quite difficult to *infer* the “learning“ that takes place (learning being an internal mechanism/process). Note that we cannot pinpoint with precision what the student “learned”: we can only deduce based on – surprise – performance. It follows then that we can only use this vehicle (performance) to assess student “learning”. Which gets me to the next question: what is learning then and how do you know?

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April 2, 2013

Essential Questions (2)

*As mentioned in my previous post, I am reading Understanding by Design and will post the most interesting bits here as a way to remember and reflect.*

“In the absence of overarching questions, students are left with rhetorical questions in a march through coverage or activities.

Questions not only focus learning, they also make all subject-knowledge possible. If students are to understand what is known, they need to simulate or recreate some of the inquiry by which the knowledge was created. Such an approach is, after all, how the pioneer came to understand the unknown: asking questions and testing ideas.

i.e. Why is it true that a triangle always has 180 degrees? How can we know for sure?

Types of questions (examples):

  1. Essential question: Must a story have a moral, heroes and villains?
  2. Unit question: Is Huck Finn a hero?
  3. *Entry-point questions for understanding

*Learners need concrete and meaningful experiences, problems, applications, and shifts of perspective to enable an important question to arise. Plunking a big idea at the beginning of a unit may not always stimulate student inquiry because typically the student does not know enough or care enough about the issues involved to see the need or value in addressing such question.

i.e. abstract discussion on property rights —is made accessible and intriguing by using the saying “Finders keepers, losers weepers” and building role-play around the idea.

Giving the answer straight away bypasses inquiry and deep understanding. “