donderdag 23 juni 2011

MSU2011: Know your classics, but how to translate this to the classroom?

Day 4 of the master class in Michigan starts with some classics: Piaget, Kohlberg and Vygotsky. Kristen Kereluik, one of the teachers of the course, explains that the starting point for Piaget was that children are active thinkers, constantly trying to construct more advanced understandings of the world. They can develop their understanding by assimilation (the process of taking new information or a new experience and fitting it into an already existing schema) or accommodation (the process by which existing schemas are changed or new schemas are created in order to fit new information). He asked children to solve problems and questioned them about the reasoning behind their solutions and discovered that children think in radically different ways than adults. This lead him to believe that development occurs as a series of ‘stages’ differing in how the world is understood. To get a better idea of these stages, the students here in Michigan are asked to watch some videos (such as this one, this one and this one) of children in different stages and discuss their ideas about the videos. Some of the things that are shown in the video might be interesting to test with your own children :-) But Piaget's theory was challenged (as most theories are I guess). Newer studies indicate that infants do more than sense and react and that they might be able to reason at some level. So Piaget might have been underestimating children's abilities. There is also critique on the different stages and how children go from one stage to the other (without taking into account things like the social environment).

An other theory that is discussed in class is Kohlberg’s theory of moral development. Kohlberg assessed moral reasoning by posing hypothetical moral dilemmas and examining the reasoning behind people’s answers. He proposed several stages in which people develop in moral reasoning. I won't discuss this in much detail here, but two things are clear for me a) it is nice to have a lecture again on these theories, everyone will have had this information before, but a repetition is always good for remembrance, and b) the way people learn and learn how to reason is fascinating. It is our job as teachers to do something with this fascination when we are teaching.. Know your students, know where they are coming from (intellectually, but maybe also personally?) and use this knowledge when you are teaching. Probably many teachers will do this without even thinking about this, they have the "right" C, P and T integrated into their teaching habits, but I know from experience that there are also teachers who have difficulties with this...

The question for me is how much every teacher should know about theories like behaviourism, cognitivism, social learning, etc. And in what way should a teacher by supported to translate these ideas to thier own teaching practice? Do you have to learn this by listening to another teacher, or do you have to experience this by (guided) excercices? Probably it's a combination of the two.. The development of these things take partially place during teacher training, but someone's ability to teach and to account for PCK-related things is mainly influenced by real teaching experiences, because while experiencing one builds up knowledge, skills, confidence and a certain attitude toward education and teaching (Shulman, 1987). I am curious how the MAET students think about this..

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