Friday, February 04, 2011

Teaching vs. learning

Wednesday evening's class seemed a bit off to me, and I'm not sure why except that it was definitely me and not the students. The Moje article might have been too much of a stretch, or I didn't prepare them sufficiently to read it with a clear understanding, or perhaps it just was not a good idea to have them read that particular article so early in the semester. The students didn't seem to understand the part of the article that differentiated the various disciplines [English, math, science, social studies] in the way I wanted them to [and how could they understand it like I did - I've got 35 years of prior knowledge to filter the ideas through], and my worst behavior as a teacher reared its ugly head, and I tried to tell them the important ideas - what a fiasco that part of class turned out to be. They did a great job with the ideas related to the first part of the article about the barriers to infusing literacy into content area classrooms, and maybe that's the only part of the article that I should be concerned with right now. It might have been a simple as my not giving them a break after we had discussed the first two parts of the article - maybe it was, in the end, just timing that was so off that it impacted student learning.

We will return to the differences in the disciplines [content areas] several times during the semester through modeled lessons and other articles and readings from the textbook, and I need to keep that in mind - these understandings are complicated, and take time to construct. So maybe the worst part of the class was that students didn't feel as successful as I had wanted them to feel. I can see already that part of the difficulty is the discourse disconnect. That is, I am definitely a member of the educational discourse community but they are just being introduced to that community, even those students who have had several education courses. I use terms from education in my comments and lectures, many of which they are not familiar with -- I have to remember to explain those terms. I need to remember to use the students in class who have already had several education courses [the four reading masters students and the MAT student who majored in secondary English education] as a valuable resource. That might also help to model how classroom teachers might tap into students' capabilities and experiences in their own classrooms.

I think another problem on Wednesday was that I had too much planned for the evening and I couldn't seem to stop myself from trying to "cover" everything. Once again, I got ambushed by my past. The secondary teacher in me was so intent on "covering all the topics" for the night, that I didn't stop to remind myself that just because you "cover" a topic doesn't mean students learn the material. The old teaching vs. learning thing. So, I have to decide what is absolutely crucial for the students to take away from this course and what I can leave out - this is always the decision I have to make for every class I teach. Maybe I'm not willing to let go of activities and ideas I've used successfully in the past to make room for the "new" stuff. Because of the current cutting edge ideas in disciplinary literacy, there is a lot of new stuff. As I type this, it occurs to me that so far I've given them a perfect example of a curriculum that is a "mile wide and an inch deep" in this course - horrors!

I can only hope that my explanation of the YALIT project helped them to see that project more clearly. I'll go back to that this next week, too, to make sure they understand it. Speaking of projects, it always happens this way, but after giving up on the Blogging project with the middle school students, we heard from the teacher today - he really wants to continue the project. So now, I'm sure my students are wondering what the blazes is going on - and I hate to jerk them around. My first instinct was to just say to the teacher, "sorry - you should have been more attentive to the frantic e-mails we were sending you." But several of my students really wanted to do the Blog project. Well, as I told the students on Wednesday, you'll make lots of decisions in teaching and they can't all be right. I'll see if enough of them are still willing to do the Blog project and we'll go from there.

I still have to finish revising the schedule, since we missed the first day of class and I'll be away for two weeks - but that's something I need to be doing now, instead of thinking about last Wednesday. Oh well, it will all work out in the end.


tigerrhino said...

Dr. Gillis,

I wanted to respond to your concerns about the Moje article. This is my first education class in the MAT program. I have taken all of my content classes, but this is my first full-fledged education class. I give you that background, so you will understand better where my comments come from.

I had a hard time understanding the Moje article. While I was reading it, I was reminded about what we discussed about science texts- they are telescoping and semantically dense. For me, the Moje article fit this description. I read this article twice; the first reading was just to get an overview, and the second was to extract the information for the two column notes. The second reading was a little better than the first- but not much. I stumbled over concepts like “the disciplines are constituted by discourses” and “semiotic domains.” I still don’t think I have a clear enough understanding of these concepts that I could explain them to you.

Having said all of that, the class discussions on the first part of the article did help me to synthesize some of the ideas that Moje talked about; particularly, understanding the biases that each party brings to the table when the concept of disciplinary literacy is introduced. I do not have a clear understanding of what Moje was saying with respect to each subject area. I found the textbook a much easier read on this same subject. I hope I didn’t muddy the water too much for you, but I wanted to let you know what I was thinking when I read and discussed the article.
Robin P.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your feedback. Don't worry about the last part of the article - you will understand itby the end of the semester! Victoria

MATman said...

* I think you are way too tough on yourself.
* Moje 2008 was a little difficult to comprehend.
* I do see middle school teachers integrating literacy instruction in their particular classes. I also see teachers on the same "team" integrating their content areas.
* The main goal of middle school teachers today will be the ability to motivate students across a wide range of literacy levels.

Anonymous said...

Moje was a difficult artical; however, once we began the class dissussion it became clear what she was triing to say. I think sometimes for me the best way to learn is the sink or swim appoarch. These are all new terms for some of us and what a better way to learn them than MOJE. WOO

CZB II said...

I felt that even thought the Moje article was confusing I understood what the class discussion what about: not necessarily teaching a student how to read but how read in your content area. That's what really cemented it for me. It may be an oversimplification but that it what I walked away with from class.