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Why Do You Ask?

From asking questions that require an answer To asking questions that require a conversation.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

BOOK REPORT - Part 11 - Two Alternatives


I have taken some extra time with this chapter because the book is getting to the practical application of the theory.

The two alternatives to an Inquiry Method approach are provided: 1) Student-constructed questions with teacher guidance to higher-level critical thinking, and 2) games which require real-world scenarios.

A quote from Frank Miceli -

Teachers don't work with materials.  They work with what they have in their heads and with what students have in their head. When the schooling process breaks down...we can almost be sure that the origin of the failure is in the fact that the stuff in the teacher's head bore an inadequate relationship to the stuff in the learner's head (p. 171).

Miceli's article goes on to provide a "class setting" in which the gathering of questions and the organization of those questions is demonstrated.  Not only do the students learn what questions they can ask, but what makes a question "valuable" to provide the kind of learning they really would like to experience.  There is a skill in learning to ask questions that matter.

This article, updated with a situation more current than the 1960s, is an excellent starting point for any teacher wanting to get a glimpse of the work required  in the Inquiry Method based on questioning.  My particular curiosity is to create this atmosphere in a middle school setting, that can adhere to the benign standards I must present, and not make the process seem contrived (to me or my students).

My absolute favorite statement in the book thus far:

If more and more students become less and less interested in what we have to offer them, we will...begin to discover by default what our profession is all about, and what it should have been from the beginning: the study of how students learn by asking and being asked relevant questions.  The student must be central in any curriculum development.  Not central to the limit that we bear him in mind as we construct our intellectual houses, but central in that our curricula begin with what he feels, cares about, fears, and yearns for [emphasis mine] (p. 179-180).

My personal philosophy is born out in this statement, and probably demonstrates why I am so frequently frustrated by the way we "do school."  Now we start with an ineffectual, who really cares, set of standards created and dictated by a few "someones" who were likely not very successful with students, but perhaps successful in the system of "education."  Our students, all of them, must be pigeon-holed into becoming "standardized" under limiting, yet (under NCLB) vital criteria. It is, as the quote from Lean on Me, a vicious effort "to maintain a permanent underclass."

The second alternative, games, was discussed at length, with several examples of college-level "games" that worked.  The advent of computer gaming makes the claim of using games even more realistic.

"Games" of the kind we have in mind can be used at any "grade level" and for learning any concept (p. 181).

The games should be designed to "put individuals into decision-making posts so they can experience what it's like to operate [in a real-world] system," said Dr. Guetzkow, (p. 186).

Two chapters remaining.  I'll have them completed very soon.  Next Book Report - Sir Ken Robinson's The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything

Posted via email from rrmurry's posterous


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