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Monday, 14 September 2015

It wasn't about the science it was about thinking.

It wasn’t about the science it was about the thinking.

I have the most vivid memory of sitting in a classroom at Teacher’s College in 1987 and the lecturer bursting through the door announcing to us all that we couldn’t think.  Yep.  We were all regurgitating information given to us by lecturers. They lamented at this dreadful state of affairs, advising us this could no longer continue and that they would teach us how to think.  They did this and I remember being spellbound by this thing called logical reasoning.

I was the product of a schooling system, where I quickly discovered the rules to learning included, listening, writing, memorizing and regurgitating.  I remember students who did get into trouble. I think they were the question askers. I choose not to question and just do what I was told.

Hold that story.

Yesterday, a colleague and myself, Primary teachers, attended a workshop about science for early childhood teachers.  I was a little nervous to be honest, first time to cross the great divide between sectors.  However, I was totally blown away by the learning.  I knew that what David Spraggs, the workshop facilitator was saying could be applied to any age and certainly embraced pedagogy followed at Te Karaka Area School.

A few quotes.

“New experiences trigger change only when they cause us to question our beliefs.  Whenever we believe something strongly enough, we no longer question it in anyway.”  Anthony Robbins.

Ask Questions, ask questions, ask questions.

“It surprises me how our culture can destroy curiosity in the most curious of all animals – Human Beings.”   Paul Maclean.

“Teaching science is teaching thinking skills.”    Nancy P. Alexander

To learn – Children need to make mistakes the same as scientist do. 

And that led to the concept of continuum thinking.
This is where we find students no matter what their age, somewhere on the continuum from concepts that they believe, to early logic.  We help them move along by providing experiences, next steps, that help them to challenge their thinking.

Magical perceptions --------------------------------- Early Logic

Now - the important part.  It doesn’t help students to move along the continuum if we tell them the answers.  What does work is if we provide an environment in which they can experiment.  Allow time to think.  Help students to recognize their working theory and then support them to move on from it.  It is not about being right or wrong, it is not about telling them how a light bulb works or why bubbles pop. It is about letting students challenge their own thinking.  Teachers can be the most significant barriers to not allowing this to happen.

The important point in all of this is how our Early Childhood Colleagues are teaching not what they are teaching.  We have so much to learn from them.

Think for a moment, not about the what, but the how?  If you are a Primary teacher, what happens when a new 5 year old comes in to your class or school?  How are they taught?   They often come from an environment where they are allowed, encouraged, and supported to ask questions.  They are often self -directed learners.  Okay, they can’t always tie their own shoelaces, open their own lunchboxes and even go to the toilet but they can think and ask questions. 

Are your students allowed to ask questions?  Do you model question asking for them?  Are your students allowed space and time to explore, experiment and discover? Do you take the learning to them instead of them coming to you for ideas?

How do we push through the barriers of say, others expectations of our performance, lack of time, national standards, pre-conceived ideas of where a child should be by a certain age.  I have to ask myself, do I limit my students because of the way I was taught?  Am I a teacher who believes in how I teach so strongly that I have stopped asking questions?  Maybe I have stopped asking why students are ‘naughty, lazy or unmotivated?  Maybe I have stopped asking why students don’t want to learn what I am teaching?  Maybe I have stopped asking why I teach the whole class the same thing the same way?

And that is what I started to think about as I listened to the workshop with a group of teachers from a different sector.  I realized that asking questions was vital to my survival and my students.   It wasn’t about the knowledge so much as about how students get knowledge.  It is important that we are not afraid of a different sector in education and that we learn together and from each other.  It is really important that we don’t think we know all the answers and become so sure of how we teach that we stop asking questions. 

My goal is to move my students along the continuum from Magical perceptions to Early Logic, but the truth is I have to move myself along this continuum as well. 

The Learning Continuum and play

I'm into my 6th year of teaching through play.  Long enough to explore some of the edges. I use this continuum from the England Earl...