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Thursday, January 28, 2010

From the Land of Wicked Good to the Land of 'S Up?

My favorite part of traveling is the time I am forced to sit still and do nothing!  Because my feet are not moving, my mind kicks in.  For me, this is the time I start connecting dots, making connections, and develop insights.

On my most recent road dot connecting lead me to ... a meeting with Elaine and Bill (members of our literacy and technology pilot).  During our meeting, we had been discussing how to organize our use of e-pals around the unit on culture.  Bill kept saying, he wanted to organize the unit for a ripple effect - so the first part between Jay and Winthrop students would provide a foundation of understandings that would be applied to other cultures throughout the unit - and hopefully carried into each student's life.

During the meeting, I had realized it was an analogy, but it kept niggling at the back of my mind.

Of course, the association was with the article by Sibley on analogy and science.  He was basically suggesting the curriculum be arranged in a sequence that would allow the students to build - by analogy and comparison - their understandings -- "rippling" out.

While sequencing curriculum is not a new concept, we have always thought of it in chronological order or - depending on the content - a "building blocks" sequence, the end result being a body of knowledge.

Using analogy gets us to the same "point," but uses thinking strategies to get us there.  This approach provides us with more active learning - requiring questions to clarify and build our understandings.  Research tells us the analogy approach is a best practice - mirroring the way the brain works.

Sometimes the difference is so subtle, but so crucial - we have to look closely to be sure we "see it."

As teachers our inquiry should revolve around our students.  Are you allowing yourself the time to just reflect?  "S Up with you?
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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Analogy and Metacognition - Missing Link?

     Since my last post, I have been reflecting on the link between analogy and meta-cognition.  All of us, of course have been exposed to analogies at the high school level and, of course, all of our Maine students are required to take the SAT - which contains extensive analogies.  However, I must honestly admit that I have always viewed analogies as "scholarly" - usually showing up in pre-college English.  So, I had to back track my understanding of the meta-cognitive side of the analogy process.
     Clay states clearly that young children learn by going from the known to the new.  As a reading teacher, I have observed this hundreds of times.  Children who can not learn by rote memory in tiny chunks, can indeed make the leap from known chunks to new words, building a strategy that propels them into reading.  AHHA!

     This ahha, of course, led me to the connections we use in our classrooms between - usually - literature and our own experiences.  However, I have not observed the same success in this area as I have in the previous one.  Atwell, in her new book New Understandings about Reading and Writing Workshop, references this topic when she clarifies connections need to be pertinent to the text - not random and unsubstantiated.   BUT...
      Today I found this article and it really clarified my thinking.  I am sharing it with you because I think it is perhaps the missing link.

Reasoning and Learning with Analogies: Making Metacognition "Natural" by, Duncan Sibley, Center for Research on College Science Teaching and Learning, Michigan State University

Sibley summarizes research briefly: " According to linguists and cognitive scientists, the human mind specializes in learning through analogies (Lakoff and Johnson 1980, Hofstadter 2006, Pinker 2007). Children do it (Goswamii 2001). Even chimps draw analogies (Oden et al., 2001)...Part of the reason Hofstader, Pinker and many other cognitive scientists (e.g., Gick and Holyoak, 1983, Blanchette and Dunbar 2002, Gentner 2003, Holyoak, 2005) believe analogy is a fundamental cognitive process is that drawing analogies requires some sort of similarity mapping of one concept on another, a process which lies at the heart of learning."

Sibley builds on this premise as he details how he uses analogy in his geology class at the college level.   "For example, retrieval may be exemplified by noticing the wings on a bat while mapping, the process of comparing similarities and differences, might lead to the conclusion that comparing hair on a bat to the on hair on a mouse is more meaningful than comparing wings on bats and birds. While wings on birds and bats support inferences something about bats, the fact that bats and dogs share hair and, therefore, are both mammals supports many more inferences. We move from students' analogies about the very familiar to students' analogies that will help them learn new concepts." 

This reasoning process is developed by feedback scaffolded by his question rubric included in the article - and the sequence of content explored in his course. 

AHHA!!  This made sense to me.  In my years in the classroom (my own) as a teacher and then as a coach, I have never observed this type of direct instruction and scaffolding.  And yet - it is so similar to how I coached my beginning readers!   I had come full circle.

Sibley began this article by stating, "By show of hands, roughly 70% of the students in my general education course for non-science majors believe scientists and non-scientists think differently. If students believe that scientific thinking is somehow different from the way they think, learning science must, for them, represent a daunting challenge. Faced with this obstacle, students might rationally choose to attempt to learn science by rote memory, a strategy at odds with most instructors' desire to help students develop higher order thinking skills. If students are provided the opportunity to reason by analogy, they may recognize that everyone thinks like a scientist."

Physics taught by analogy above:)

Thinking about the 21st century and the amount of new information our students will be bombarded by, I suggest it is necessary for us as educators to explore thinking strategies and identify a core to be taught explicitly and consistently across content areas.  Science has always been built on inquiry.  If we look closely at their practices, I am sure we can draw parallels - or make analogies!

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Saturday, January 9, 2010

Metacognition and Analogy?

Earlier this morning I published a post on my blog Assessment and Instruction.  In the post, I shared my reflections and connections I developed during my jury duty last week. Here is the part of the article I want to focus on.

The courtroom was organized with the judge (on a raised platform) at the front of the room while the perspective jurors were seated lower and facing the judge.  While both superior court judges were pleasant, the clerks, marshalls, etc. made it clear that we were to follow rules, exactly - right down to receiving permission to use the restrooms as well as dismissal for lunch depending on the work load.
While, as an adult, I understood the reason for all of this, I was not happy with the level of control - and am sure students must feel this way at some point.

The selection process involved the judge presenting defendants, stating the crime, listing the witnesses and then asking jurors questions.  Of course we were all sworn in and answered with the complete truth.  For purposes of time, we were asked to answer just what we were asked.  As we moved around the room, I could see the anxiety from those who:  gave the "wrong" answers by telling more or answering in an incorrect order, those who felt uncomfortable standing to say they did not feel they could be impartial, and  those who wanted to explain.  For instance, one juror commented, "They asked how many collisions I had been involved in and I answered 6.  They must think I am a terrible driver, but I was rear ended 4 times."   How many of our kids feel like this every time they take an assessment and how many would like to have the opportunity to answer in a comprehensive way what their thinking process was?

However, one of the most powerful decisions of the day, was the exclusion of the final jurors.  From a pool of 20, 15 were selected.  The 5 cut went away wondering what was the problem with them - especially since a number of jurors were selected for several trials.  How often is this same process repeated in our school systems, based on assessment?  How can we expect students to handle this when adults have difficulty?  We talk heterogeneous, but we assess with standards that create an elite.

This experience made me think about the value of connections and how they might lead to analogies/metaphors.  Vocabulary research, notably Marazno's, has supported the use of this higher level thinking strategy to teach comprehension for some time. 

Two areas of instruction I want to think about.
  1. Do teachers need to develop students' awareness of their emotional responses (Costa argues emotional meta-cognition) before they can apply that understanding to an analogy?  Do they need to be able to identify in order to generalize?
  2. How early do teachers need to begin to have students make meaningful connections and comparisons?
Atwell, has addressed the need for us to help students make meaningful connections in order to improve comprehension.  I am thinking we need to follow up those types of connections with an explanation of the child's rationale and perhaps scaffolding from the teacher by restating the connection as a generalization.

For example, For instance, one juror commented, "They asked how many collisions I had been involved in and I answered 6.  They must think I am a terrible driver, but I was rear ended 4 times."
Teacher: You don't like it when you can not explain your answer to others and they might think badly of you.
Would this help the students apply this to other situations and then to analogies? 

ASCD has recently advertised a new book on Analogy and Metaphors.

I am waiting for my copy!

Please share your thoughts under comments:)

Talk to you soon.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Socratic Teaching a Boost to Metacognition?

This year, as I have worked in classrooms, teachers and I have been trying to scaffold students during discussions.  Following Vygotzky's work, we have tried to support students' developing conversational skills.  Specific strategies, coupled with labels, are modeled, practiced, and eventually internalized.  When reading this article, I was once again reminded of the importance of language - collaborative language - in our classrooms when teaching critical thinking.  The pressure to achieve, as measured through NCLB, has driven us away from this practice - quite simply because it is time consuming!  The article focuses on the importance of this format when teaching these strategies.  Enjoy.

Will Socratic teaching find a place in 21st-century schools?
Cincinnati is just one of three districts across the country that offer "paideia" K-12 curriculum in public schools -- a method where the curriculum is focused on the Socratic method of in-depth discussion and classical debate. Paideia programming declined in schools as curriculum became increasingly focused on content-based instruction and standardized testing, but proponents of paideia teaching say it may regain popularity as educators move toward the teaching of 21st-century skills such as critical thinking, collaboration and creativity. The Cincinnati Enquirer