Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Carolyn's animoto

Carolyn's animoto

Why don't students like school?

Final Reflection

Reflection of: Why Don’t Students Like School? By Daniel T. Willingham

The cognitive principle: Children do differ in intelligence, but intelligence can be changed through sustained hard work. (pg. 170) As teachers and administrators in public schools, it is imperative to model good work ethic, show how to gain knowledge by sharing experiences, allow/plan for classroom experiences, have good focused classroom discussions, teach study skills early and be persistence in expecting good effort in the classroom and most importantly praise the effort.
We can be successful with our students by praising work ethic, effort in the learning, adding to discussions, sharing experiences and explaining that we learn by our own successes and failures.

In my resource room, after reading this section, I tried the more praising of effort than quality/quantity of work and the amount of good work achieved was impressive. My students and I discussed the idea of learning by our mistakes and using our successes to do more and to be better students of life. It really worked!! My students worked harder than I have seen in the past two years and when they did make mistakes I saw less pouting and more questioning and redoing and less complaining because of poor grades. At the same time, the older students have been caught by their general education teachers using better study skills, questioning more and asking for help more in the classroom. By praising their effort, their quality of work and effort have improved.

This section was powerful for me as a special education teacher. To see growth is important and to keep it is hard to do. With this section, it has changed my way of praising and I am seeing success with my tougher/older students.

I found this book to be a positive experience. It was good to be refreshed in good practical strategies that can be used with all students and in any grade level. I really enjoyed this book and Willingham’s ideas, strategies and the research to support them.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Final Reflection Post

I found this book easy to read because Willingham kept my interest throughout the whole book. He built every subsequent chapter upon the preceding one very well. As I read through the book, I reflected on my own students and my teaching and thought about how I can apply this information to my current students and my teaching approach.

Section 1 – The cognitive principle is: People are naturally curious, but we are not naturally good thinkers; unless the cognitive conditions are right, we will avoid thinking. (pg.3)
Thinking is slow, effortful and uncertain, but despite this fact, we actually like to think. Teachers need to make the conditions “right” for the curiosity to thrive or the students will lose interest and quit thinking. The “right conditions” are a fine balance of how much mental work it will take to solve the problem. If it is too much or too little, we stop working on the problem.
Applying this knowledge in my classroom means that I need to be sure that the problems to be solved are attainable without great mental effort, but yet some. I need to respect my student’s cognitive limits and provide the background knowledge they will need in order to help solve problems. I also should keep a diary of how the lesson went in order to improve the next time I present it.

Section 2 – The cognitive principle is: Factual knowledge must precede skill. (pg. 25)
Trying to teach students skills such as analysis or synthesis in the absence of factual knowledge is impossible. (pg.25) One of the main points that stood out to me in this section was the amount of information you retain depends on what you already have, so if a person has more factual knowledge in long-term memory, it makes it easier to acquire still more factual knowledge. (pg.44)
Factual knowledge makes cognitive processes work better, so we must help children learn background knowledge. (pg. 47)
Applying this knowledge in my classroom means that I need to be sure that all of my students have the adequate background knowledge they need in order to succeed and apply the knowledge to higher levels of thinking. In order to give my students background knowledge, I need to expose them to new vocabulary and ideas through books, magazines, newspapers and real life experiences. I also need to help them connect all this information by chunking the information, so they remember it better.

Section 3 – The cognitive principle is: We understand new things in the context of things we already know, and most of what we know is concrete. (pg.88)
In order to understand new ideas, we need to relate them to old ideas (things we already know.) A useful way to do this is through analogies. Analogies help us to connect what we know to what we do not know.
Applying this is my class should include: providing examples and ask students to compare them; thus relating old ideas to new ideas. Also, I need to make deep knowledge the emphasis of lessons through my questions. By asking deeper questions, this sends a message to students that a deeper understanding is expected and just knowing the facts is not enough. At the same time, I need to make my expectations for deeper knowledge realistic.

Section 4 – The cognitive principle is: Cognition early in training is fundamentally different than cognition late in training. (pg. 127)
Basically this section says that an experts mind thinks differently than novices do. Experts not only have a lot of information in their memory, but it is organized differently from the information in a novice’s long-term memory. Experts don’t have trouble understanding abstract ideas, because they see the deep structure of problems. (pg. 133)
Another important point made in this chapter was that we can’t expect to be experts until we put in at least ten years in our field. (pg.139)
Applying this in the classroom is to expect our students to comprehend information but not to expect them to create it. Drawing a distinction between knowledge understanding and knowledge creation is…….experts create, novices understand. (pg. 141)

Section 5 – The cognitive principle: Children do differ in intelligence, but intelligence can be changed through sustained hard work. (pg. 170)
Americans view intelligence as a fixed attribute, whereas China and Japan view it as malleable. (pg. 170)
As teachers, we must model the belief that intelligence is malleable. We can do this by how we administer praise and in how we talk to students about their successes and failures.
I can apply this knowledge in my classroom by
· Praising effort, not ability
· Telling my students that hard work pays off
· Treating failure as a natural part of learning
· Teaching students how to study
· Being realistic about what it will take for my lower students to catch up
· Showing students that I have confidence in them

Section 6 – The cognitive principle: Teaching, like any complex cognitive skill, must be practiced to be improved.
Willingham states that everything he has said about the students’ minds applies to ours as well. (pg.189) He also explains the difference between experience and practice. Experience means you are simply engaged in the activity and practice means you are trying to improve your performance. (pg.192) I like the way he defines these processes, it helps me to visualize what the difference is and that practice is consciously trying to improve, whereas experience is improving through years of teaching.
How do I apply this to myself:
Team up with another teacher to work with. Tape yourself and watch the tapes of other teachers and then, with your partner, reflect on these lessons noting what went well and what could be improved on.
Other suggestions were: keeping a diary, starting a discussion group and observing students in other areas of their life.

Willingham offers some great advice for teachers and how we can be more effective with our students. To sum up this book in one small paragraph is difficult, but I really like what Willingham says in the conclusion of the book. He states that, “Teaching is the act of persuasion.” (pg.208) Thus to ensure that my students follow me, I must keep them interested; to ensure their interest, I must anticipate their reactions; and to anticipate their reactions, I must know my students. It is all about knowing your students and I believe that we all know our students very well. (pg. 209)

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Final Reflection

Willingham's "Why Don't Students Like School" had so many key concepts that impact our teaching. Throughout this book, Willingham has offered important suggestions for teachers and how they interact with their students.

•Section 1 (Why Don’t Students Like School?): Children enter our classrooms as eager, curious students. Students want to learn. So when and why do students become bored and avoid thinking? According to Willingham, it is when the educator fails to make the content interesting. Willingham also stated that students stop thinking when the problem is too hard. Not every student is at the same level at the same time. This is why it so important to differentiate instruction within the classroom and allow students to problem solve in a way that works for them.

•Section 2 (How Can I Teach Students the Skills They Need When Standardized Tests Require Only Facts?): Willingham stated that "we must ensure that students acquire background knowledge parallel with practicing critical thinking skills" (p.29). It is through this background knowledge that students can apply information in order to learn new information and to problem solve. Without background knowledge, students struggle in school (p. 37). This is why we must expose children to a variety of real world experiences. We can utilize things like interactive maps, online videos, speeches, music, photos, etc. to allow underprivileged kids to take a virtual tour of things from around the world. We can use technology to help expose students to things that they would not have access to at home.

•Section 3 (Why Is It So Hard for Students to Understand Abstract Ideas): There are three things that we must do in order to move students to a deep knowledge of abstract concepts, we must focus on three main strategies: We need to give our students a variety of experiences and examples from which to explore and compare (p. 102); Pose a variety of questions both in oral discussion and assignments/activities (p. 103); Give students time and opportunity to practice. Deep knowledge and understanding takes time (p. 104).

•Section 4 (What’s the Secret to Getting Students to Think Like Real Scientists, Mathematicians, and Historians?): Can and should students be taught to think like experts? Do differences in learning styles and multiple intelligences really exist? We need to do what works with the student. We should still differentiate the type of teaching we do based on what works best to teach particular content. Differentiating our teaching also helps keep students from getting bored!

•Section 5 (How Can I Help Slow Learners?): Because some of our students are fast to learn new concepts and some students struggle with almost every new concept, Willingham's list of classroom implications was very important. I feel these suggestions are very important to how teachers interact with all students in their classrooms (both fast and slow learners).

•Section 6 (What About My Mind?): Willingham stated that "data show that teachers improve during their first five years in the field, as measured by student learning. After five years, however, the curve gets flat, and a teacher with twenty years of experience is (on average) no better or worse than a teacher with ten" (p. 192). As educators, we obviously need to put in effort (practice) to improve. Willingham stated that there is a difference between experience and practice. "Experience means you are simply engaged in the activity. Practice means you are trying to improve your performance" (p. 192).

For me, I feel that Chapter 9 was especially important because Willingham demonstrated how all of his strategies apply to me and my thinking/teaching? "Teaching, like any complex cognitive skill, must be practiced to be improved. Teaching is indeed a cognitive skill, and everything I said about students' minds applies to yours (p. 189). The goals that we have for our students should be the same goals that we, as adults, have in our own lives/jobs. Just like our students, we need to continuously work to improve. It is easy to 'do what we always have done.' In order to show improvement in our teaching and not become stagnant, we must work at it...just like our students.

Willingham's suggestions for improvement are ones that I have heard in other classes that I've taken on cognitively guided coaching. These classes have also focused on the importance of peer coaching and feedback. It is not easy to seek out feedback from peers. However, it is possibly the most important thing we can do to improve our teaching. The feedback is not meant to criticize, but to be supportive and constructive. In the last few years, I have had the opportunity to both receive and offer peer feedback. These experiences have helped me think about my teaching in ways that I don't get to on a regular day.

This book has been very interesting to read and has provided me with many useful strategies to use when working with my students. I thought that Willingham's final quote was most powerful: “Education makes better minds, and knowledge of the mind can make better education" (p. 213). If we all think like this, imagine what we can do!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Key concept from book

My concept that I am going to share comes from Chapter 8 "How Can I Help Slow Learners?"

"our genetic inheritance does impact our intelligence, but it seems to do so mostly through environment". We find this very true in the Kindergarten classroom. When these kids come to class, it is very evident the student's experiences in specific areas. The way a child holds a pencil, handles a book, colors, cuts, manners, listening skills, behavior, and oral expression are all observed. Even though these kids come with varying degrees of expertise. These children's "intelligences can be changed".

As the book says, it would be nice if all children were equal in all areas. We know in reality, this does not happen. Especially at the early childhood level there are definite gaps of varying degrees at all developmental stages. The age range of early five years old to six year olds have been the age ranges in the classroom. They all have specific strengths and all have specific weaknesses in developmental areas. We know that the gap of these learners will not be closed between the strongest student and the weakest student, but we as teachers, and the students themselves work to close the gap.

In experiences with these gaps I have found something to be true in the last two years with my class. Some of my most "lower intelligent" people have been the most driven students that I have taught. As the book has talked about, some of the smarter children have been presented with challenging material. Since things have become so easy for these students, when presented with challenging material they shut down. They do not want to fail. With some "coaching" and praising for their efforts, they work through this. Some of the slower kids have had the drive, the want to suceed and do what they see their peers doing. They are not afraid to fail. With much praising and coaching they seem to blossom from seeds into flowers. They flourish through their many trials that make them successful.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Super Summary--Section 6 (p. 189-224)

“Teaching, like any complex cognitive skill, must be practiced to be improved.” (Willingham, pg. 189) Willingham refers back to the cognitive requirements for students to think effectively and states that we are no different from our students. He asks if teaching is a cognitive skill then how can we increase space in our working memory, relevant factual knowledge, and relevant procedural knowledge. (Willingham, pg. 191)

Willingham goes on to stress the importance of practice. He talks about driving and having plenty of experience driving but not practicing to improve his driving skills. Teachers need practice too. Data shows that teachers improve during their first five years and then are no better or worse after twenty years of experience than a teacher with ten years of experience.

Willingham than discusses a method for getting and giving feedback. He says to find another teacher you can work with and then tape yourself and watch the tapes by yourself. Then with your partner watch other teacher’s tapes and then watch each other’s tapes. Finally bring back to the classroom what you have learned. Willingham suggests keeping a diary, having a discussion group and even observing students in other settings.

In conclusion, Willingham reviewed the cognitive principles and stated the purpose of Why Don’t Students Like School? His final statement “Education makes better minds, and knowledge of the mind can make better education.”