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Topic: Pseudoteaching
Replies: 31   Last Post: Apr 19, 2011 9:35 AM

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GS Chandy

Posts: 8,307
From: Hyderabad, Mumbai/Bangalore, India
Registered: 9/29/05
Re: Pseudoteaching
Posted: Feb 28, 2011 10:30 PM
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Mark Hammond posted Feb 25, 2011 7:10 PM (GSC's remarks interspersed):
> I appreciate your demand for more scientific rigor in
> analyzing our teaching. Let's see if a physicist can
> help.
> Trying to analyze quantitatively a single
> lesson is tough. What about a whole year?

While 'quantitative modeling' is definitely required (at some stage), I suggest that 'qualitative modeling' is the primary requirement till we learn better to understand the 'systems' we are working in or with. In the conventional way, practical, usable understanding of 'systems' is almost negligible - even amongst people who bandy the word around. I claim, in fact, that quantitative rigor is generally lacking when our 'qualitative understanding' of the systems in which we function is inadequate - which is clearly the case in most cases where ideas, human mind, human motivations and the like are concerned.

The attachments at my posting
in the thread "Can Thinking Be Learned?" provide - along with the attachments herewith attached - some information about what we mean by 'qualitative modeling' (in particular, look at "What Is Modeling?" for a quick overview of what is involved in 'qualitative modeling'). Much more information can be made available on request: email me at "gs [underscore] chandy [at] yahoo [dot] com" - just substitute the characters indicated for the words in brackets; remove the brackets, the spaces around them and also the quotation marks - and you will have an email id).
> I started
> out teaching with the standard textbook reading
> followed by lecture followed by homework practice
> problems followed by laboratory experience sequence.
> Just the way I was taught. Force Concept Inventory
> (given before and after the course) scores averaged
> in the mid to upper 60's (very good, but not so
> unusual with highly motivated students with strong
> mathematics backgrounds). I was not satisfied... I
> felt my students were missing too many obvious basics
> by the end of the year.
> I first tried to slow down... while my first years of
> teaching were in no way "mile wide inch deep" I
> thought that perhaps spending more time on the
> fundamentals of energy and Newton's Laws would help.
> Results as measured by the FCI were no different.
> I then went with more of an inquiry approach. I
> created my own materials (well, with MUCH help from a
> colleague... WE created our materials) based off of
> the Physics By Inquiry materials from U of
> Washington.
> So, hold your hats... the results as measured by the
> FCI? Not much difference. A bit higher, but not
> significantly different. More pseudoteaching? Very
> different teaching, but not what I was looking for in
> the form of results.
> Then I took a summer course on Modeling Instruction.
> I modified my materials again, used some of the
> Modeling instruction materials, created some totally
> new stuff (much with the help of some of the people
> contributing to all this pseudoteaching buzz). The
> results were a great increase the effectiveness of my
> teaching (at least as measured by the FCI). My
> classes have now achieved average FCI scores of over
> 80% (very rare for high school courses) two years
> running, and there is no difference between my
> colleague's classes scores and mine.

WONDERFUL!! I'm really thrilled by your description of "how you learned to teach" - this is a process that should continue forever. I do believe you should find "What Is Modeling?" pretty useful - along with everything that flows out of the philosophy expressed therein.

As an aside: I'm certain you have thoroughly studied the 'Feynman Lectures', which I was looking at just a couple of days ago. I strongly feel that it may well be time for developing that great work appropriately as a prime text/reference for physics for now. Earlier, despite its high reputation amongst graduate students and above, Feynman himself felt, I understand, that the 'Feynman Lectures' had not achieved what he had intended for them. It should be possible, now, to do something with them to help achieve his original vision. What think you?
> It appears that we have made a difference in our
> teaching, as measured by a widely accepted standard
> (the FCI).
> As for this thread, I am uncomfortable with some of
> the language. We need to be able to disagree and
> discuss without getting personal.

Yes indeed! (Though I must confess that I personally have been guilty of retorting quite sharply when what I feel are unwarranted attacks are made).
> And to condemn
> someone for going back to graduate school is
> confusing to me. If anyone I know exudes the spirit
> of "I need to improve my teaching, I'm not done yet,"
> it is Dan Meyer. To suggest that he's figured out how
> to teach and now doesn't teach anymore is a cheap
> shot and not at all accurate.

Indeed a cheap shot! (It's precisely those cheap shots that lead to sharp retorts). I, like you, believe it's a most laudable thing to do for someone to "go back to graduate school". I may do that at some stage myself even though I shall almost certainly be the oldest student in ANY graduate school class.
> The self-reflection of
> people like John Burk, Frank Noschese and Dan Meyer
> is continuous and utterly professional.

Based on what little I've seen of Dan Meyer's work, I entirely agree with your opinion. In my view, by no means should Dan Meyer be considered "a fraud" as a 'fixer of the math problem' as Robert Hansen puts it; I personally do not know whether Dan Meyer has actually "fixed the math problem" (as I've not studied his work sufficiently) - but he surely has done valuable work towards fixing it.

I shall try to make myself familiar with the works of John Burk and Frank Noschese as well.

"Self-reflection": The process I recommend ENSURES self-reflection, systematically, on a continuing basis. The process does demand:

i) a reasonably open mind;
ii) a very little learning;
iii) a fair amount of 'unlearning'.

It turns out that the learning and unlearning have to proceed in tandem: a little learning - a little unlearning - a little more learning - ....

Unless the needed unlearning is done at appropriate times, the next bit of learning is unlikely to be successful (or is much less successful than it should be). Children do this 'learning-unlearning' naturally - it's inbuilt: see "How A Child Learns", attached at the post referred earlier.

However, by the time we have been 'processed' through the 'mis-education system' that is the norm in the 'traditional teaching process' we have generally lost our capacity to unlearn bad thinking habits (in particular, we have more or less forced our inherent question-asking process' into dormancy). [Again, "How A Child Learns" has some remarks on this issue - I propose to expand on this document considerably].
>To suggest
> otherwise is to deny their hard work just because you
> don't like all of their conclusions. Hold them to the
> standard of evidence and scientific inquiry, yes,
> but, please, no cheap shots.

Thank you for your voice of sanity. But I'm not hopeful that your voice of sanity will prevail.


Message was edited by: GS Chandy

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