Monthly Archives: September 2015

w5/ Imagination

 

Last week for my MOT class, I got to take the teaching styles inventory by Grasha- Riechmann and found out that although my facilitator/delegator style of teaching can be advantageous, it can also be disadvantageous for the students who need more direction, and supervision. Interestingly, at the same day, when I was about to introduce a new discussion in the class aiming the students to integrate various conceptual information in a contextual manner, some of the students asked me to show/tell them clearly what I want them to do, and how I want them to think. Realizing I’m living in my own infj-centric way of learning/teaching, and yes -not all students are like me-, was definitely a teaching moment for me.

In this regard, the Robert Talbert article was quite a reminder that:

– Learning also happens by the means of listening and observing (remember the long, boring lectures that served as models for your thought processes).

– Structured thinking and a solid conceptual knowledge are necessary in order to be able to think creatively (remember picasso: “Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist”).

– Learning through sharing experience and personal stories help. We love stories, we are stories.

– Tying the contextual dots when introducing the concepts help new neural pathways to be formed, make the knowledge essential, effective and easier to retrieve. Who cares of a knowledge, if it is not retrievable? It does not matter if there is a cake-house in the deep forest, if you can not find it.

I guess particularly the last point is in line with the assumptions of Mark Carnes. The intellectual games help the students to develop new neural pathways and strengthen the already present ones. Yet, at first, you have to learn what the basic concepts are, how the games are played, as James Paul Gee mentions. When there is a stimulation in the brain, the students become no longer interested in other mind-killing/time-wasting tools, as the potatoes happily grow under the fertile soil instead of developing sprouts when they are on a garage.

yesim

Sep 19, 2015

w4/ Assessment

The readings and watchings this week helped me to broaden my perspective with regard to assessment in education. I liked the assessment tips provided by Alfie Kohn, particularly the portfolio approach. And I also liked Dan Pink’s formulation of motivation as the collection of three elements: autonomy, mastery and purpose. I feel like, the main take-away from this class is that teaching is a form of art. Instruct your class as if you’re cooking, painting, knitting or sculpturing. Thou instruct your class like you are performing a piece of art.

First, intend to produce the piece of art (cheesecake, or class), then choose good ingredients (chocolate chips, cream cheese, or readings, watchings, discussion topics) that can produce your expected outcomes in the best way possible (cheesecake with a chocolate swirl, or knowledge and ideas with good judgment, and empathy skills). Then, mix the ingredients in an integrated amount and order with a sensitivity of an artist who is aware of the science of the ingredients (a piece of salt balances the sweetness of cheesecake, and provides a grounded taste, or balanced scheduling of the readings, assignments and assessments provides the chunk of knowledge to be built in an integrated, grounded way). And as for the delish, put a piece from your soul, as Thomas Keller says, “A recipe has no soul. As the cook, one must bring soul to the recipe.” Then, finally, enjoy the view (Bonappetit <3).

What particularly leads me to the art metaphor with regard to teaching is that the more I dive into the class materials, the more I’m realizing the essentiality of balancing the process and content in the educational context. Although in today’s performance culture, it is very easy to regard everything as pieces or art, we can identify the good art by sensing the internalized knowledge mixed with creativity on the piece. What makes the class good (inspiring, memorable, effective, meaningful) is not only having/transferring the scientific (or conceptual) knowledge about the “stuff” but also (re)creating the knowledge by adding individuality, creativity, uniqueness -soul. As a micro piece of teaching, I feel like assessment also reflects this principle: It is about knowing the basics, the nature of the basics, integrating the knowledge of basics in a creative, soulful way and coming up with a unique, individualized understanding.

I strongly believe that the ideas are formed on the basis of solid conceptual back-grounds. So, in my classes 60% of the students’ grades comes from the conceptual assessment, including exams and quizzes. They can choose how to fulfill (if they want to) the remaining 40% of their grades, from a menu of assignments including reflective assignments based on volunteering in class relevant settings, attending conferences, meetings or workshops, preparing presentations, or papers, interviewing with class relevant people on class relevant topics, writing critical papers by watching class relevant films, or reading class relevant books. I also plan to invite the students in the beginning of the semester to come and talk with me if they have an assignment idea as an individually contracted one.

Until now, the students seems to like having a variety of options. They like feeling autonomous to make decisions and to create a meaning out of the material they are exposed to. They can choose the assignments on the basis of their purpose in life, their abilities and interests, and build up a portfolio. As a part of the class, a student just started to volunteer in a class relevant research team, while another is interviewing with the counselors that she wants to be in the future. As Pink also points out I think that when there is a fairness with regard to assessment and there is a free space in which the students can play as they want to, then grades would not be the priority,, they just just enjoy the view.

w3/ Another Brick in the Wall

Well, one more mini-post for this week:

Thinking about what learning is, I recalled my first undergraduate class, which was an introductory course with 200+ students. I was late for 2-3 minutes and when entered the class, saw the first may be 2-3 rows were full of students with notepads on their laps. “Oh my goodness,” I thought, “what a huge class!”. Then, I moved to the back rows, found a seat at the very back and sat. The dark blue powerpoints were flowing on the screen, the instructor had put some little, shiny, yellow stars on some bullet points, and said on a terribly echoing microphone “Annnddd, these will be on the test”.. Thinking of dark blue background was not a wise choice (since I was not able to read the text from the very back) and recalling the scenes from Another Brick in the Wall (yes, I was young at that times), I caved in, checked the textbook and saw that the starred bullet points were the bold-ed ones.Then I left the class, did not attend to any and got a good grade in the end and now remember nothing from that textbook -besides how expensive it was.

Now I am realizing I was so very lucky to be in the classes of inspiring and encouraging teachers prior and after the class I mentioned above. So that, my passion for learning never deceased. In this regard, I can resonate with the students who drops out from the school. That would be very easy actually. For instance, that class could be my very first experience in the “education system”, and I heard many stories similar to that one. Even in last class, somebody mentioned how things are going on in kindergartens. The second class I attended could be the same. And I am not sure I would be motivated to keep going..

I feel like my definition of learning will improve as the semester continues. Yet, at this point, my 6-word sentence is as following: learning is wanting to be involved. and all the connotations of this sentence.

yesim

sep 6, 2015

w3/ Educational Climate

Ken Robinson is a great discovery for me, thanks #gedivt. I can resonate with his approach, especially his focus on the educational climate. Michael Wesch’s focus on creating an interactive space in the classroom is also in the line of Robinson’s observations: there is no such thing like “not cut out for school”. There are the right environments in which learning and growth is “evocated” or not the right ones. Life is inevitable. I agree with these statements wholeheartedly.

While describing his person-centered approach in psychotherapy, Carl Rogers describes a similar process, by referring to potato sprouts:

“I remember that in my boyhood, the bin in which we stored our winter’s supply of potatoes was in the basement, several feet below a small window. The conditions were unfavorable, but the potatoes would begin to sprout—pale white sprouts, so unlike the healthy green shoots they sent up when planted in the soil in the spring. But these sad, spindly sprouts would grow 2 or 3 feet in length as they reached toward the distant light of the window. The sprouts were, in their bizarre, futile growth, a sort of desperate expression of the directional tendency I have been describing. They would never become plants, never mature, never fulfill their real potential. But under the most adverse circumstances, they were striving to become. Life would not give up, even if it could not flourish. In dealing with clients whose lives have been terribly warped, in working with men and women on the back wards of state hospitals, I often think of those potato sprouts. So unfavorable have been the conditions in which these people have developed that their lives often seem abnormal, twisted, scarcely human. Yet, the directional tendency in them can be trusted. The clue to understanding their behavior is that they are striving, in the only ways that they perceive as available to them, to move toward growth, toward becoming. To healthy persons, the results may seem bizarre and futile, but they are life’s desperate attempt to become itself. This potent constructive tendency is an underlying basis of the person-centered approach.”

I believe what Rogers describe as the person centered approach in psychotherapy (characterized with three elements: unconditional positive regard, congruence, and empathy) can be applied to all sorts of interactions in our lives, including education. I never met with any student or teacher,, or person in general, who did not responded positively when they are approached with acceptance, genuineness, and understanding. Potatoes bring sprouts when there is no soil in which they can grow into their bests. Students get lost in social media, because the powerpoints they are “exposed” to do not form the fertile environment for them in which their physical, psychological, social, and systemic abilities can grow.

There was a great post-it among the post-its in a video we watched in class: “I can google it”. I think the beautiful trick in education is that exact point: to motivate the students to be interested in the material. In class, while talking about technology tools, it was mentioned that a student “honestly” saying that s/he was lost in facebook, at that time. Agreeing with the content perspective, I also think that thanks to the holding environment the instructor created in the class in which the students feel like “their experience matter”, the issue is solved. Not necessarily the content, the tools.. but the environment, itself.

In line with the assessment issue discussed in the class, I believe when the students experience the class as a safe enough environment in which they can reflect themselves freely in their authenticity, the standardized testing will not be perceived as a standardization at all. As Robinson already mentions, the issue is not really the standard facts or not. It would not make sense to ask students to write a 500-word essay on a “2+2=?” question. Yet, under the educational climate in which the students feel like their presence is important, the standard questions like 2+2 will just form the tiny steps toward their best selves, that I believe, is the ultimate aim of education.

yesim

Sept 4, 2015