Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Section 5 Summary by Jeff Rieckman

This section deals with people that are slow learners and how all students differ in intelligence but that ALL students can improve their intelligence and position through hard work.

Part of the chapter deals in what makes an intelligent person is it genetics vs. experience. One test that they completed said genetics had everything to with intelligence and that a persons environment made very little change in a persons standing.

The chapter went on to explain how as educators we could help slow learners in the classroom:
1. Praise a students effort not their ability.
2. Tell them how hard work pays off.
3. Treat failure as a natural part of learning.
4. Don't take study skills for granted.
5. Catching up is the long term goal.
6. Show students that you have confidence in them.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Friday, November 12, 2010

Chapters 6 and 7

What's the Secret to Getting Students to Think Like Real Scientists, Mathematicians, and Historians?

Real Scientists, Mathematicians, and Historians are experts. None of these people thought like experts in the beginning, in truth, according to Willingham, no one thinks like a scientist, mathematician, or historian without a great deal of practice. Compared to novices, experts are much better suited to single out important details, produce solutions, and transfer their knowledge to similar domains. This includes the expert teacher who often seems to have eyes in the back of their head. Compared to the novice teacher the expert can quickly come up with
explanations of a concept and alternatives and they do it more quickly.

Experts do not have trouble seeing deeply into a situation, they see deeply and do not have to focus on the surface. Experts see the deep structure of a problem. That is why they can transfer from a former problem to a new problem and their judgements are sensible.

According to Willingham, experts save room in working memory through acquiring extensive, functional background knowledge, and by making mental procedures automatic. They do this by talking to themselves. Experts can draw implications from their self talk. Experts do not just narrate what they are doing, but they test their own understanding and talk through the implications of possible solutions.

Getting students to think like experts does take extensive practice. To be an expert one must put in the hours. Willingham thinks it is difficult to become an expert in any field in less then 10 years. Once you arrive a person must continue to practice to keep the status of an expert.

Implications for the Classroom
Experts are not just better thinkers in the field of their choice, but experts actually think in ways that are qualitatively different. After reading this, I know that as teachers we cannot realistically get our students to think like experts, but we can get them to understand what they are studying whether it is science, math, or history. We should try to draw a distinction between knowledge understanding and knowledge creation. Experts create and a realistic goal for our students. This would be knowledge comprehension according to Willingham. A student will not develop his own scientific theory, but he can develop an understanding of the existing theory.

The thing we must remember is as Ralph Waldo Emmerson put it, "Every artist was at first an amateur." That I believe would be true in all aspects of learning. We all have to be given an opportunity to start somewhere and to practice until an expert is born!

Chapter 7 How Should I Adjust My Teaching for Different Types of Learners?

The cognitive principle that guides this chapter is: "Children are more alike than different in terms of how they think or learn."

We know of course that students are different. One student's strength may help remedy a weakness and another idea is that teachers may take advantage of students' different way of learning and see it as how he learns best and how the material was taught. Making too many changes seems like a lot of work and is it really worth it? Cognitive abilities and styles are different in a few important ways. Abilities are how we deal with content and styles are how we prefer to think and learn. We think more ability is better than less ability, but one style is not considered better than the other.

The concept of visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learning is not new to us as educators. It is said that each person has a preferred way to learn - visually, auditorially or kinesthetically. Not only are learning styles different, but students differ from one to the other. It is the hope of Willingham that educators will use the differences in students to improve instruction. One method is based on differences in cognition style - that is all well and good, but no one has described a set of styles for which there is good evidence. The second way to take advantage of differences among students according to Willingham is rooted in the differences in ability.

Willingham states that he is not saying that teachers should not differentiate instruction. Is is something we should do, but scientists can offer no help.

Learning styles theories don't help us much when applied to students, but Willingham says, they are helpful when applied to content.

We need to remember that all students have value and every child is unique, whether they are intelligent in the way of mental ability or they bring pleasure to those around them.

In conclusion, I am looking forward to reading the next chapter to see why it is never smart to tell a student that she's smart. Willingham says that doing so makes her less smart.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Part Two Summary - Maria Carmen King

Part two emphasize the importance of knowledge for reading and comprehension and here are the points that are important to me.
First, one of the points in the book is how important background knowledge is to reading comprehension, and one thing that every teacher should consider in their classroom is that every student comes from a home with different economic, social, and intellectual background. Many students also come from other countries (like me) and they don’t have the same growing experiences as students born naturally here. How can we grade these students fairly that don’t have that knowledge?

My second point is that sometimes students see some subjects or themes as a foreign item because they previously did not know anything about it and they cannot relate to their reading comprehension. Therefore, students will need more time to assimilate and think on what they are reading.

In my opinion, in order for us as teachers to come out with a theme that is meaningful and interesting to students we should find out more about their background and knowledge before we begin a new lesson.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Section Three Summary

Section Three (chapters four and five)

Chapters four and five explain why students struggle understanding abstract ideas and how practice can help.

According the Willingham, the goal of education is to teach students how to transfer knowledge to the world outside the classroom. To do this, students must understand abstract ideas. However, the mind prefers concrete ideas, so students need many concrete examples. Learners look at new information and compare it to old information, and since most of what students know is concrete, concrete examples help students make sense of the abstract.

One way to make comparisons is through analogies. Analogies help students relate the unknown to the known. However, it's not the quantity of the comparisons that help students understand abstractions, it's the quality. The comparisons have to be familiar to the student, and most of what students know is concrete -- hence the need for concrete examples to understand abstract ideas. As Willingham said on page 92, "Every new idea must build on ideas that the student already knows."

In chapter four Willingham contrasted shallow knowledge with deep knowledge and surface structure of problems with deep structure. With shallow knowledge students have some understanding of the material but their understanding is limited. They may see the parts but not the whole, and they may be focusing only on the simple surface structure of a problem. Students with deep knowledge can apply their knowledge in many different contexts and see the whole problem and how that problem changes when one part is altered. Students with deep knowledge understand abstractions and transfer that knowledge to new problems because they recognize that analogy between different problems.

Willingham stressed the importance of emphasizing deep structure in problems. Teachers can do this through the types of assignments and assessments they create and through daily questioning in the classroom. However, Willingham also assured his readers, "Shallow knowledge is much better than no knowledge at all, and shallow knowledge is a natural step on the way to deeper knowledge."

In chapter five Willingham explained how a store of factual knowledge and regular practice help students learn by clearing up space in their working memories. Practice that is spaced out over time help mental processes become automatic so the working memory can focus on more complex processes. Practice also helps with transfer and long-term memory.