Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Importance of spontaneous feedback

I was just thinking about how important it is to get and give spontaneous feedback - on every level! When I say to my five year old daughter "Hey, Ally, you wrote that word so well this morning - that was great" and she then shines! On the other hand, when I say "Maybe you should try it like this" she doesn't always look happy, but she does and then she "gets over it" and our conversation resumes - no one was hurt and she learned something and I learn each time how to formulate feedback into something constructive but hopefully not too critical.
So what made me think of the role of feedback was last week - after one course a student said "Actually, I find the topic really interesting, but I wasn't sure of the timing". And throughout that entire course, I was thinking about whether the others found it interesting or not. So her feedback was constructive - I knew we could more or less go on how were were with the main concept but we'd have to watch our timing a bit. And the second feedback somebody said that she really had a very good day despite having to come in on a Saturday.
So it can't be that at the end of every course, you get feedback from every person, however, if we would more open our mouths and let people know how we feel, then a lot of time would be saved in futile endeavours and in misunderstandings. And this feedback on a social level, on an interpersonal level, is just as important, if not more, as feedback at the end of a project or a course! And people shouldn't be afraid to give feedback though it is always an exercise in being diplomatic!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Problem based learning

Last night I was wondering about two things: working interdisciplinarily and also problem based learning.
About interdisciplinarity: On a superficial level, most things are interdisciplinary. If you teach English, you are also teaching things related to culture, to "self" and to many other topics. If you teach M&U, you are also teaching language, you are also teaching math, etc. However, if the school system is based on specific subjects having 45 minute blocks and there is this concept of teachers having a profile (some do English, some do art, some do French - but not all), on a feasibility level, this interdisciplinarity remains on this superficial level unless teachers really make an effort to network. So on the level of strategies, how do you have a strategy-based approach with the children in one subject and then ensure that they are transferring the strategies that they "train" to other subjects? Of course it's possible, but it's more complex due to these profiles. So I ask myself if it wouldn't be better to really get into subject-specific strategies in more depth and leave interdisciplinarity because perhaps if we start to look into depth in one subject, this makes us have another way of looking at things which then transfers to other subjects.

About Problem Based Learning: On the level of tertiary education or more concretely, when working with teacher trainees, I only wonder here if the problem shouldn't be written by the students themselves. Perhaps it's better to say: PBL is a great method but the first two weeks of the semester should be spent observing classes or reflecting upon classes previous seen so that in the third week, smaller but more relevant problems should be written and researched. PBL is supposed to be authentic and real - and this is subjective. Therefore more students would be more interested IF they could themselves decide what problem they want to solve. This is the reason we wrote our "dialogue" - we wanted everyone to find something that they're interested in but I have the feeling that like in any module, some people are really interested and the others don't see the relevance and just want to get through. And then some things stay on this superficial level. If students could write their own problems, then they would be forced to make them relevant.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Zoo visit

Zoo visit
A lot of planning went into our zoo visit and I was really nervous about it but all in all, I think it went okay! Of course, there were certain things we could do better like giving you a short overview of what we were doing with the zoo tasks and why we chose to do them BEFORE we let you on your own to do it. We didn't because we wanted to "just do it", but next time I think it'll start off a bit better if you know what the module is about beforehand! Other things we could have done better would be changing the weather or getting a room, but we won't mention that!!

It's so important to start off on the right foot - it doesn't have to be perfect, but it should be positive at least!

As the students were sharing their observations about what would help the teacher/student be able to do the task better, I was thinking that these students have a pretty great understanding of the terms and the general concepts behind identifying strategies - we can all speak "strategy speak"! So our next step will be to define what these really mean. What does "Ask if you're not sure" mean? What does "activate prior knowledge" mean? How do we guide these things and how do we ensure that we are training strategies and not just teaching things kids things they have already figured out?

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Looking Forward!

What's the difference between "forward-looking" and "looking forward"? An initial thought leads to time: are forward-looking things less probable because they take place in an undetermined point in the future? Are things you look forward to more concrete, in the shorter-term and thus more probable? Who knows - but it is sure fun to think about it!!

I am looking forward to this upcoming semester because:

Somehow it seems a bit simplistic, but isn't it these simple things that keep us happy?