Signature Pedagogies

I just finished reading Lee Schulman's talk "The Signature Pedagogies of the Professions of Law, Medicine, Engineering, and the Clergy: Potential Lessons for the Education of Teachers." This lead me to this video of Yvonne Divans Hutchinson teaching her class.

It seems a standard feature of her class is to assign a different student to be the "class scribe" each day. The "scribe" takes notes on what happened in class for their assigned day and they orally share their report in the next day's class. Students who missed the class are thus able to stay informed and stay on top of any assignments that were given. The scribe for any given day chooses who will be the scribe for the following day. One of the most striking things about this pedagogy is how empowering it is for students. It requires students to take ownership and responsibility for their education.

As I think about the 6 different classroom blogs I'm planning to run over this school year I've been struggling with how to make blogging an authentic part of student assessment and get them to buy into the process more than last years class did. One way to do this might be to have a "class scribe" for each day's class. Instead of sharing their reports in class they'll do it on the blog.

This whole train of thought started with Lee Schulman's talk about the search for Signature Pedagogies in the field of education. A fascinating exploration. If you watch Yvonne's video you'll immediately agree that she's a Master Teacher. I wonder, how exactly do we identify the concrete actions that a Master Teacher exhibits in their classes? What are the Signature Pedagogies of a Master Teacher? And finally, what are the Signature Pedagogies related to using blogs in the classroom? Any thoughts?

The Tipping Point

I'm working my way through Malcolm Gladwell's book, The Tipping Point. Jim, over at A New Adventure, has already read it. It's an interesting concept that may have important implications for teaching. From the back of the book .... [emphasis mine]

The tipping point is that magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behaviour crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire. Just as a single sick person can start an epidemic of the flu, so too can a small but precisely targeted push cause a fashion trend, the popularity of a new product, or a drop in the crime rate .... the tipping point phenomenon is already changing the way people throughout the world think about selling products and disseminating ideas.

Our culture (North America) doesn't really hold "education" in very high regard. Education is way down the list after "style," "flash," "looks," sports stars, rock stars and movie stars. Take, for example, the way the news is reported on television. We don't really have news programs any more, they're called news shows. How does a classroom teacher turn a kid on to lifelong learning in the face of this overwhelming media drenched pop culture we live in? How can we tip our classroom culture over to genuinely valuing learning for the sake of learning?

It seems to me that teachers are primarily in the business of disseminating ideas. Imagine what our classes would look like if all parents and students held education as one of their top three cultural values. Can we tip over the dissemination of this idea? If not throughout North American culture then how about just our individual classroom cultures?

Good Pedagogy or a Juicy Rationalization?

A while back I posted about how I love teaching but the corrections are killing me! I'd like to find a good balance between getting tests marked fast and giving students the opportunity to get part marks using more extended response style questions. I'd like to give them quizzes more often but the time it takes to correct them (each has from 3 to 5 "show all your work" type questions) quickly becomes a factor.

I think I've got a solution. What I'll do is have the kids exchange papers immediately following each quiz and we'll correct them as a class. I'll make a point of emphasizing the kinds of oversights that cost students half marks (which can quickly accumulate) and exactly how solutions should be presented and structured. Involving students in the evaluation process will hopefully give them some insight into how their tests get marked. Maybe they'll even sidestep these sorts of minor errors where it really counts; on their exams. A second benefit is I'll have fewer corrections to do creating more time for me to spend with my family. ;-) Of course, another concern here is can I afford the class time to do this? The courses are very content heavy.

Well, what do you think .... is this good pedagogy or a juicy rationalization?

BPRIME- Reflection, Collaboration and Building Community

T i m e   W a r p
This post has been sitting around in draft form since early June .... I just finished it off tonight.

Yesterday we (math folks here and from two of our feeder schools) had our First Annual BPRIME Workshop with teachers from grades 7 through 12. The feedback so far has been very positive which is amazing considering the date was June 1st; just as we enter the final exam period and teachers and students are under tremendous pressure to finish courses and begin review. (We're talking about doing the next one in Novemeber or December.)

The BPRIME Wiki I started last month was in preparation for this day.

The day was built around two documents:

The Cylinder Problem is rich in mathematical concepts and the discussion it promotes. We presented how the problem might be tackled at the elementary level and then asked the middle and high school teachers in attendance, working in groups of 3, to come up with lesson plans appropriate to the levels they teach. While everyone recognized the depth and scope of topics inherent in the problem the overriding question became; "What do I want to use this problem to teach?" We summed up the activity by showing how this problem can be used to help students develop an informed concept of volume and what the volume of an object depends on (elementary); it can be used to teach algebra in a meaningful context in middle school; it leads to developing various functions in high school; and also suggests an interesting optimization problem in calculus.

The afternoon had two parts. First we spent some time looking at the "Student Achievement in Mathematics" document and identifying how the best practices it mentions can be applied in working through this problem. Everyone took home a hard copy and we spent some time discussing a few of the suggestions in the document. Each group of 3 teachers looked at one best practice, discussed it and presented the results of their conversations to the group. I think this was the lowest point of our day together. The content was good but I wasn't happy with the way it went over -- it seemed kind of flat. Something we'll have to do differently next time.

During the second part of the afternoon I introduced everyone to The Teacher's Lounge Wiki and the BPRIME Wiki. That went over really well but I'm still struggling with how to encourage folks to buy into the the wiki paradigm. Maybe I should have them email their contributions to me and I'll put them on the wiki myself like Rob does.

I think everyone walked away with the three themes of the day knocking around in their heads: the best educational practices evolve from teachers and students reflecting, collaborating and building community -- students with students; teachers with students; and teachers with teachers.