A conversation with Dr. Josh Aronson of New York University on teaching, learning, and stereotype threat.
People perform better when they don't feel their intelligence is being evaluated. So in a very broad way, if you can create an environment that takes the heat off of intelligence — and I think different teachers do this in a variety of ways — so if they say, look, I'm here to evaluate not how smart you are, but what I have been able to teach you... Now the onus is on me. Now the bell curve isn't about you. I am being put on a bell curve as your teacher. So you can sort of shift the emphasis from evaluation of your intelligence to evaluation of my ability to teach you. I've had teachers come to me and tell me that when they [do this] the kids do much better, and they aren't vomiting on their exam pages anymore.
Links referenced in this episode:
"Stereotypes and the Fragility of Academic Competence, Motivation, and Self-Concept" by Joshua Aronson and Claude M. Steele. From Handbook of Competence and Motivation, 2005. [PDF courtesy of the author]
That element of choice and trust between the teacher and the student I think are important aspects of creating a good learning environment, and I think the authoritarian syllabus tends to work against it. Authoritarian syllabuses can achieve certain things. You can get people to do things. But you can't get them to want to learn. That was my epiphany, if you like.
A conversation with Dr. Arthur Zajonc of Amherst College on teaching, learning, and contemplative inquiry.
While we may begin with the "pause that refreshes," if we leave it only at that then it's seen only as a break from learning. I'm really keen on it being seen also as a means of learning. That is to say, we school our attention — that's long been a part of the contemplative traditions, the deepening and stabilizing of attention — then, if we can bring that deepened and stabilized attention to the work at hand, it's going to be far more productive. And in addition, if one can take up a practice such as this contemplative inquiry practice, we add to that an enhanced learning capacity. So not only attention is schooled but also a new modality of inquiry is also offered to the student.
A conversation with Dr. Eszter Hargittai of Northwestern University on teaching, learning, and digital inequalities.
The idea behind introducing the term digital inequality... is that it's really a spectrum of differences even after people go online. So even once people get connected, it's wrong to think of them as all equally accessing all that the internet has to offer, because people will do so in very different ways and in different contexts and with different implications for what benefits they can reap from their access and use.
Native ways of knowing have been documented now over the last dozen years or so in ways that teachers can recognize and acknowledge in their teaching and utilize as strengths in the classroom.... So when you're teaching science, you use the traditional knowledge, that people have developed over millennia to survive in a very harsh environment, to demonstrate that science is something that's practiced every day in the community. And you can find situations in the community where you can demonstrate the subject matter that would otherwise be taught from a textbook, and that's called for in the state science standards, but starting with something that's there in the community that students can relate to. And that has been one of the few if not the only approach that has made a significant difference for native students, to capitalize on their strengths, rather than punish them for their differences.
I tell my students that one of my goals for every class that I have is that I want them to be uncomfortable at times. I say that if they're comfortable with everything we've discussed and it doesn't sound new to them or unusual then they're not learning in the class, and that in order to grow and develop we have to have some growing pains, and so we have to have some discussions that push our boundaries a little bit, that make us a little bit uncomfortable... Thinking sometimes hurts.
"It's just so much fun to live on the edge. And I think that's what you do as a teacher. If you take it seriously and you're excited about it and you want your students to do well, it is living on the edge."