February 13, 2014 in Interests
The idea of “Backwards Design” is hot at our university right now, and for all the good it does (getting instructors to think about content transfer in terms of Learning Objectives is a wonderful step forward!), it still often falls short and over-emphasizes the evidence of understanding part — ”students will demonstrate understanding of content through [Activity X or Test Y].” In other words: “I know I’ve succeeded in transferring the content I need to transfer because students will demonstrate that they have that content in the following ways…”
10 Ways Teacher Planning Should Adjust To The Google Generation by Terry Heick is a nice articulation of “teaching to think”. It isn’t ground-breaking — Dewey used many of the same methods in his lab school almost a century before Google. And it re-hashes many elements of improvisational learning (using what you can find to solve a problem) that have been naturally used by humans and other tool-using creatures since the beginning of tool-using creatures.
But what this article does well, is reframe what comes natural to learners before they’re corrupted by the rules of school (e.g. instructor as all-knowing authority, knowledge as preset canon, etc.), and emphasizes learner agency (e.g. create your own viable answers, apply/personalize to self, ownership of issue, identity as problem-solver vs problem-understander).
Here are my version of the suggestions:
- Design assignments such that students make their own answers based on research instead of finding answers on Google
- Use real world problems, and really difficult problems to reinforce that students’ aren’t learning just to know what the “adults” already know, but to solve problems the adults can’t figure out (designers call them wicked problems)
- Focus on learning strategies of observation, pattern-recognition, study, and perspective rather than content mastery
- Focus on the identification, navigation, analysis, and evaluation of information sources
- To illustrate, use current data, and/or let the students bring in their own data instead of instructor-curated data
- Be flexible to accommodate student realities, prior knowledge, personal interests, etc.
- Focus less on blanket class-wide “understanding” and more on personal student application and customization of understanding (e.g. what does it mean to me?)
- Revisit the most important concepts at various cognitive levels (e.g. Bloom’s taxonomy) throughout the course
- Don’t package content into “units” — it promotes the idea of “we covered that last week”. Instead, overlap and revisit
- Highlight what’s not obvious. Google can reveal the obvious; instructors should note the nuances
- Promote discovery, curiosity, whimsy, and connectivity — all which necessitate self-monitoring and self-direction
Read the whole article here.