All posts by discreetteacher

About discreetteacher

I try to help students understand the beautiful world of mathematics, however I am pretty sure I'm an ineffective teacher, however I might be really good. Basically, nobody really knows anything!

Doing The Wrong Thing Righter

I am bored of this absolute fallacy in education.  If something doesn’t work, do more of it, to a better level, make it ‘righter’ and it will work.

If something doesn’t work – it is you!  You!  The staff!  You are the reason it doesn’t work!

Do it righter, do it more rigorously, and it will work!  Has deliverology taught you nothing!?

The best thing that you can do to increase the learning of your classes is improve the quality of your lessons.  Nothing has the same impact as an outstanding practitioner does.  Whatever you put in place to remove time from considering, reflecting and planning lessons is time wasted.  The nonsense of feedback has reached fever pitch, as I sit with over 150 books that I will have to put pointless, useless feedback in.  In the time it will take me to follow the farcical policy that has been meted down I could have prepared a weeks worth of ‘outstanding’ lessons (or at least very good!), however I now have to use a red pen to write some things that a student can reply to in green pen in the name of what one can only consider as mindless bureaucracy.

I could just about stomach this if there was any sort of professional discussion, if David Didau’s exceptional insights on feedback were taken on board and we had a system that was fit for purpose, however it is simply not.

I apologies for the ranting nature of this article but I needed somewhere to vent!

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Co-Operative Learning Is Not Group Work

There is a distinct difference between group work and co-operative learning.  During ‘group work’ there is generally a problem that a group is set to work on without structure, or with limited structure, often leading to one student doing the main body of work and the other students riding on the coat tails.  Co-operative learning is the opposite, it is highly structured, every group member is expected to follow the rules to put in the same amount of work, with a public performance (in front of their small group, not the entire group!).

The aim of co-operative learning is to stop ‘desktop truancy’ so that students can have an opportunity to think about something as opposed to copying answers from a friend.

Co-operative learning is not about ‘kids teaching kids’, the best way I can describe it is with an analogy of chewing gum.  The expert, the classroom teacher, teaches something that is new, this is the chewing gum.  The students want to get to grips with the new material, so they need some ‘gum chewing’ time.  This is the co-operative learning time.

To make sense of something you have to think about it, you have to ensure that it fits with your knowledge that is already there, if it doesn’t, your knowledge needs refining.  The discussion allows chance to refine the knowledge, to see how other students contextualise it, to see if there is any shared ground.

Given what Dan Willingham informs us that ‘memory is the residue of thought’ – verbalising ideas clearly relies on you thinking about the idea more deeply than just having it in your mind.

So, when I get a readership of greater than 0, I will upload a few of my resources with a plan of use, just so you can see if it is helpful to you!

Are The Dutch Wrong?

I am going to tread lightly today, as I am not sure what to believe any more.  After reading Daisy Christodoulou’s blog post entitled ‘Seven Myths About Education’ and more precisely her excellent post on ‘Myth six – Projects and activities are the best way to learn‘  I couldn’t help thinking of the Dutch style of teaching of mathematics – the ‘Realistic Mathematical Education‘ project.

The Dutch approach is at complete odds with what Daisy’s research has uncovered.  However, it seems that the scores of the Netherlands in PISA is always extremely high.  Always around the top 10 and as high as 4th in 2003.

So as a teacher I come to a real issue, there is research telling me that ‘Direct Instruction‘ is the best way to go – that the transmission of information from myself to the students will lead to the best long term results, however I am wary that the long term results don’t seem that great, however short term performance is excellent.  The real problem I have here, with Direct Instruction, is this : how do we know that it doesn’t just increase short term performance at the cost of long term learning?  Certainly the data taken at face value from ‘Project Follow Through’ seems good, however when put under the microscope it starts to pale.

So I ask you (well when I say you, I probably mean just me, as nobody ever reads my blog) what on Earth should I do?  Is the Dutch model the correct answer?  Is ‘Direct Instruction’ the way forwards?  I am once again lost.

 

(For those people that know not of what the Dutch do: http://www.fisme.science.uu.nl/wisweb/en/)

Performance and Learning

Performance and learning, I am struggling to get my head around this.  Firstly the fact that performance does not equate to learning.  I can understand that, however the fact that improving performance could actually retard learning, that is where I don’t understand the research.

Is the reason that short term performance an inhibitor of learning because once somebody thinks that they have understood something, they then stop trying to improve upon their position?  Is it because once something is in the short-term memory, it is impossible to wipe it so you don’t have to try to recall the information from long term storage?  Is it because the task seems like a closed book, finished, no longer needing to be opened?

Does this mean that when I help a student in class, I am actually interfering with his long term learning?  Should I wait, and wait, and wait?

Surely if somebody doesn’t understand something in the short term, there is no way of gaining understanding in the long term?  For example, if I think that 5x + 15 is 20x, then there is no way 6 months later I will ever think that 5x + 15 is a simplified form?  Or, should we be giving methods of checking if something is right, like a ‘check digit‘?

I am slowly going out of my mind trying to reconcile this position, I am totally at a loss.  I have no idea how best to teach any of my students to ensure that long term learning is achieved.

Please help!