Outside Outside Reading (Wk 4 #4 EDM613)


I began reading Daniel Willingham's Why Don't Students Like School? last week (while I should have been writing my thesis) but I thought that I could justify the outside reading for a few reasons. I came across the book through one of my feeds as part of an online discussion forum with teachers from all over the world. I had never participated in a discussion of this sort and thought it would be great to learn and share with teachers in this way. The second justification is that the book probably contains something I could use in my thesis so it would not be a total detour. And finally, I figured I was learning some new ideas about teaching and the classroom and it sounded like it would work well with Zander's The Art of Possibility. All was not a total loss.

After having read just the first two chapters, I have come across several ideas and practices that will be very useful as I think about my teaching for next year. An idea that Willingham discusses concerning engagement (Zander's "enrollment"?), "our curiosity is provoked when we perceive a problem that we believe we can solve. What is the question that will engage students and make them want to know the answer" (p 16)? He states that a teacher's ability to discover that question for each topic will help determine student engagement. The first part of the quote speaks to the problem itself. We must frame the problem so that it is neither too easy or too difficult or the engagement will be minimal. We have all experienced those two ends of the problem spectrum and both are frustrating in their own way.

I have also found several ideas on learning similar to those mentioned by Jensen in Brain-Based Learning and even some arguments against the approach to Gardner's intelligences. Both will be useful for my thesis (which I hope to begin writing real soon!). As for the online discussion with educators from all over the world, I was to write some entries in a community blog and share ideas with my group. Not surprisingly, I did not find the time to complete that activity this past week. But that is okay because I have still been learning and collaborating and commiserating with some of the best educators I have ever known. The same ones I have been working with since October.

Sources
Jensen, E. P. (2008). Brain-Based Learning: The New Paradigm of Teaching. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Willingham, D. T. (2009). Why Don't Students Like School: A Cognitive Scientist Answers Questions About How the Mind Works and What It Means for the Classroom. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

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