Monthly Archives: October 2013

I cringed (and that’s not okay)

During class this morning my professor put up a slide showing a math diagram. You could feel a collective cringe in the room.

One of my math teacher friends in the class was (rightfully) annoyed by the collective cringe. Why, he asked (in so many words), is it okay to so openly express a disdain for math?

The answer, of course, is that it’s not—which I think all of us in that room knew. But we did it anyway.

Incidentally, I disagree with the frequently-offered premise that only math gets this reaction. I’ve had enough conversations about being a librarian to know that many people are very comfortable sharing their dislike/disinterest/disdain for reading (it’s enough to make me wish they’d go for a Dewey decimal joke instead).

Since we know aversion is not the right reaction (and since I’m sure we all have examples of times when someone has shown disdain for something we’re passionate about) why do we still, almost instinctually, so openly show our aversion for subjects that we know others are passionate about—and that we understand, objectively, are important?

I think it’s a way of deflecting. If you say, “I’m not good at this” in advance, no one else will be able to point it out to you. Or if they do, you’ve got a head start on them: “I already told you I wasn’t good at this.” By pretending to vulnerability, you make yourself invulnerable to future criticism.

This is not, I realize, a groundbreaking insight. A lot has been written about what this looks like and what this means for students, but I’ve been thinking about what this means for us as adults. Right now I’m thinking of it in particular as an adult student, but I think it’s worth thinking about for all of us no matter what side of the classroom we’re on—or even if we’re outside of the classroom entirely.

What do I model for my students? Do I dismiss their learning? Do I diminish their passions? What do I cut myself off from learning when I go with the default reaction? Is there a difference between saying “I don’t know how to do this” and “I don’t like it”?


Howard Gardner: ‘Multiple intelligences’ are not ‘learning styles’

Howard Gardner: ‘Multiple intelligences’ are not ‘learning styles’

He does a really clear breakdown of what the terms intelligences, learning styles, and senses mean–and what they don’t mean. The whole thing is well worth reading.

As someone who learned the concepts of multiple intelligences and learning styles as if they were one and the same thing (or at the very least, a Venn diagram with lots of overlap), I found this fascinating.

While multiple intelligences always made some sort of intuitive sense to me, I struggled with the idea of learning styles. We all have our own learning style, and different areas of strength and weakness, but so so often I’ve seen the idea of learning styles used in a reductive way–by teachers and students.  I see the concept of a learning style used by teachers to pigeonhole students, or for students to pigeonhole themselves.

I think it’s really important not only to have students think about how they learn (and wow do I wish the word “metacognition” wasn’t being overused–and misused–into meaninglessness, but that’s for another day), but to help students have an understanding of learning as a complex process–a process which involves not only relying on areas of strength, but building up areas of weakness.

The recommendations Garnder makes at the end of his article are things that many teachers will be familiar with–and already do. Individualizing and pluralizing our teaching can be hard work, and it’s good to be reminded of why that hard work is so important.

Who needs sleep?

I do. We all do.

While some studies show that we’re at our most creative when we’re not at our “cognitive best”, I don’t know anyone who’s trying to figure out how to get less sleep (though it’s nice to know my sleepiness may have some advantages).

When a good night’s sleep is not easy to come by, a nap may help you feel at least a little sharper. Lifehacker has some tips on how to get the most bang for your buck out of a nap.



Research vs. Experience

These two articles have me thinking not just about models for “flipped” classrooms (though there are a lot of interesting things to think about in that first article), but about how we let (or whether we let) research influence our practice.

Classes should do hands-on exercises before reading and video, Stanford researchers say

“With this study, we are showing that research in education is useful because sometimes our intuitions about ‘what works’ are simply dead wrong,” said Blikstein.

My Research is Better than Your Experience?

“Were those students “auditory learners?” I don’t know. And I don’t think it matters. I found a way to teach them, playing to their strengths. And that was good for everyone in the music program.”

Things I’m wondering:

  • When do we trust our “gut instincts”?
  • What if our gut is wrong?
  • How can research inform our instincts?
  • How can our instincts influence research?
  • How do we make meaningful connections between research and practice–in both directions?