Mathelogical

Archive for June 2012

Inside Possum Holler School, El Reno, Oklahoma

 

Welcome to our blog! We are Diane and Anne, and while working together, we love researching and discussing ideas, and trying to take them to the next level. So we hereby join the growing conversations in support of more progressive means of education.

As former victims of chalk and talk methods of instruction, especially in math class, we are passionate about the changes we see in instructional methods. We applaud those teachers who have for decades been practicing these methods without acknowledgment, and we are excited and energized by the connections we can now make, thanks largely to social media.

Unfortunately, the term teacher conjures up images of a single adult before a class, delivering content with a “because I said so” air. Going forward, as we must, we propose that rather than use the word “teach” – “to impart knowledge of or skills in” – we migrate instead to use “facilitate” – “to assist the progress of”. We believe that this would be a significant step in redefining schooling as a more student-centered environment in which learners embrace responsibility for their education. We cannot help but think that one who views himself a facilitator will necessarily define his role differently from that of the stereotype mentioned above, and will transform the classroom into an environment in which students can be more actively engaged and enjoy greater success. In this more constructivist approach, the facilitator respects the students’ innate abilities to question and learn with a minimum of intervention.

Perhaps you have had the good fortune to be in on some workshops conducted by Richard Ruscyzk, founder of the Art of Problem Solving website. His passion and enthusiasm are highly infectious! He has said something particularly interesting about creating a learning environment based on student inquiry. After each class, he gave himself a score on his performance. These are probably not the exact words, but essentially it was this: he got 5 points whenever he talked; 10 points when a student asked a question; 25 points when a student debated with him; and 50 points when they debated with one another.

In general, students are social creatures, and they often learn more from one another than from the “sage on the stage”. This model dovetails nicely with the blended learning and flipped classroom examples that so many have begun to implement with great success. Our challenge is to keep our mouths shut and merely guide their dialogue with probing questions. When they answer incorrectly, we must avoid responding immediately and allow the others to consider their reactions. Only when necessary should we intervene, and then with a question that guides them to a different view. It is also helpful if we position ourselves away from their focus so they are more likely to turn to each other than to us. Ultimately, the goal is for the only person at the back of the class to be the person facilitating, listening and guiding with a light touch.


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