Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Teaching Metaphors

It is well known that metaphors are very useful when teaching, specially when teaching scientific concepts. One tries to simplify concepts by relating them to more familiar situations building bridges will be a good metaphor for these kind of explanations. Even to describe what teachers do has relied on metaphors, such a hicking/travel guide, sport coach in a reference to learning as a journey or a game. But this one is new for me: Professional Cook! This article by Natalie Houston in The Chronicle of Higher Education's blog "ProfHacker" http://chronicle.com/blogs/profhacker/streamlining-teaching-prep/38237 really makes a point about this metaphor. Hope you enjoy reading it.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

It Is About Relationships

Learning is not an isolated endeavor, nor is an individual event. Learning and thus teaching is a relational activity that has to be developed over time. How long it takes? is hard to answer and will be dependent on what the learner and teacher bring to the relationship. As with any relationship there are bidding actions as described by Gottman and DeClaire that produce counter-bidding. And the way we respond with the counter-bidding will determine the outcome of the relationship. There are -in general- three was we can reply: positively or turning toward, when with the reply there is an engaging counter-bidding; turning away, when the response denotes ignoring the effort done by the one engaging; and turning against, when the response implies some kind of offensive, dismissive, or in any way negative and in some cases contrarian to the interest of the relationship. Gottman and DeClaire argue that most of the way in which one responds to these bids comes from the ways we learned early in childhood and is difficult to change as they are so imbedded in the sub-conscience. 
In the classroom one can find these three was if turning to a lecture or learning activity. The student brings his/her preconceived idea of what s/he needs and how s/he is going to get it. But is science there is one advantage over other topics that do not have a hands-on laboratory experience. In these activities teachers can remove to a certain degree the student from his/her familiar attitudes as there activities do not replicate the realities of growing up. It seems that "lecturing" follows a parallel more attune to the traditional up-bringing that one is exposed.
More laboratory, and hands on experiences have to be included when teaching as the old idea of learning through doing appears to be well proven. 
John M. Gottman and Joan DeClaire. 2001. The Relationship Cure. Three Rivers Press, NY ISBN: 0-609-80953-9