Friday, October 27, 2017

When Research and Evaluation Don't Match Practice

Are there practices you use that don't match up to the research about good teaching and learning? If so, why do you continue?

As I think about that question today, I'm thinking about the pedagogy I use and when that pedagogy matches the research and when it doesn't. A couple weeks ago when I engaged the students in a "sit and git" teaching lesson in order to complete an expectation quickly, I knew immediately that the lesson didn't match research. I was the one carrying the "cognitive load" while students sat passively and assistants and specialists scurried and sat around the room to help them write down notes. That was performance teaching and the performance wasn't very good. That teaching did not match the research.

That night I went home and thought a lot about the expectation and the lesson. I designed a new approach that put the cognitive load on the students in a differentiated way. The tech that sat at the center of that lesson gave everyone a guide and our class website and math book provided resources to inform the task. Students were engaged, active, asking questions, and working alone and together with zest. That's a lesson that matches the research.

More and more I'm trying to uplift learning experiences so that I meet our standards-based expectations as well as the research about what makes good teaching and learning. I'm trying to steer clear as much as possible from efforts that are not supported by the data, research, or observations about good teaching and learning. I will work with my colleagues in this effort.

Today I'll try an activity similar to Boaler's floor-to-ceiling investigations to start Unit Two of the math unit. I'll focus on the positive effects of good collaboration, systematic process, and pattern seeking as students complete the challenge. I'll use similar ability/speed groups so that one person doesn't dominate the activity and students can work at a comfortable pace. I'll spread students around the room, and then spend lots of time answering questions and observing the way students tackle the task. I'll ask specialists and assistants to do the same, and then we can compare notes about how to build learning using more of these floor-to-ceiling explorations that put the "cognitive load" on the students to foster greater depth and learning. My one reservation about today's task is that while it's similar to a number puzzle, it's a bit less meaningful than I like. I'll liken it to "password creation" and cybersecurity with regard to the way those tech experts use combinations in meaningful ways to create all kinds of security codes to protect information online. That will give it some real world connections. I'll use the video below to help create meaning for the number exploration: