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Introducing Teaching for Understanding Marian McCarthy, Ionad Bairre, The Teaching and Learning Centre, UCC

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1 Introducing Teaching for Understanding Marian McCarthy, Ionad Bairre, The Teaching and Learning Centre, UCC

2  The Project Zero Exercise:  Think about the following questions: on your own and then with a partner  What do I understand really well?  How did I come to that understanding?  How do I know I understand it?  Feedback : group response and discussion Getting Started: Teaching for Understanding

3  MMc-Reflective Questions :  What kind of a process is learning in the above?  What does understanding look like?  What are the implications of this exercise for how we teach?  What are its implications for how our students learn? Reflecting on this exercise

4  Knowledge, skill and understanding are the stock in trade of education- What conception of these underwrites what happens in schools?  Knowledge is information on tap  Skills are routine performances on tap  But understanding calls for more than reproduction or routine What is Understanding? Chap 2: TFU, Wiske (1998)

5  “Understanding is a matter of being able to do a variety of thought-demanding things with a topic – like explaining, finding evidence and examples, generalising, applying, analogising, and representing the topic in a new way. Understanding is being able to carry out a variety of “performances” that show one’s understanding of a topic and at the same time, advance it”.  D. Perkins and T. Blythe, “Putting Understanding Up Front” in Educational Leadership, 1994. Putting understanding up front...

6  Understanding is the ability to think and act flexibly with what one knows.  An understanding of a topic is a “flexible performance capability”  learning for understanding is like learning a flexible performance- learning to hold a good conversation, to improvise jazz- rather than rote learning Defining understanding (Chapter 2, Perkins, in Wiske, TfU: Linking Research with Practice )

7  Learning facts can be a crucial backdrop to learning for understanding, but learning facts is not learning for understanding  This performance view of understanding contrasts with the prominent representational/mental image view of understandings as things possessed, rather than performance capabilities Understanding…contd.

8  In casual speech, phrases like “I see what you mean”, “I see the point”, “I see through you”, “I see the answer” testify to a firm link in folk psychology between perception and understanding. Therefore, understanding- as- seeing requires achieving a mental representation that captures what is to be understood. The Representational View

9  Understanding lies in possession of the right mental structure or representation. Performances are part of the picture but simply in consequence of having the right representation. A flexible performance capability is a symptom. It does not constitute the understanding but simply signals possession of an appropriate image.. Implications of representational model

10  Understanding is seen as lying in the performance capability itself, which depending on the case may or may not be supported by representations  Understanding performances go beyond rote and routine- they challenge  They do not undermine the importance of basic knowledge and skill-we need these The performance view

11  We can have a mental model of something without understanding it  A mental model is not enough for understanding simply because it does not do anything by itself  For performances that show understanding a person must operate on or with a model-must manipulate and interpret it =runnable Why performance over representational view?

12  No one views acquiring a complex performance as a matter of “getting it”  Performances acquire attention, practice, refinement.  Performances involve multiple aspects that need careful and artful coordination.  Developing understanding = attaining a repertoire of complex performances A performance view: contd...2

13  Attaining understanding is less like acquiring something and more like learning to act flexibly  in this model, teachers less in the role of informers and testers and more in that of facilitators or coaches. Their challenge is one of choreographing performance experiences that constantly extend understanding A performance view: 3

14  Though teachers acting in the performance model may well give a lecture or grade a test, these are supportive, not central, activities.  The main agenda is arranging, supporting, and sequencing performances of understanding. A performance view: 4


16 PZ Classroom, Harvard (1998) & Perrone (2000) Lessons for new teachers: Generative Topics:  Central to the discipline  Exciting to students and teachers  Accessible to students  Multiple connections, think points and entry points  These topics give you the big picture - the key ideas in your field around which lessons can be organised  History: Revolution  English:Stereotypes  Science: Evolution  Business: Money

17 Understanding Goals  Publicly state what teachers want students to understand  State as explicit statements or open ended questions  Explicitly link to UP’s and assessment  Science: “Students will understand why some things sink and others float”  Democracy: “Students will understand the relationship between rights and responsibilities”

18 Performances of Understanding  Active engagement by students that develops and demonstrates understanding of one or more goals  varied, complex and often collaborative  sequenced purposefully  These challenge students’ misconceptions, stereotypes, and rigid thinking  DTS: Build a character sketch of X in a key scene, focusing on props, costume design, set design and lighting.

19 Ongoing assessment  Clear,public criteria tied to U Goals  Formal and informal assessment tied to each performance  Varied sources: self, peer, teachers  Indicates progress and informs planning  Any discipline: “Students brainstorm a list of questions about a particular topic, before they begin to study it. They review the list regularly and identify which questions they have answered”.

20  “At first glance the framework seems simple and rather obvious. Five years of collaborative research have demonstrated that this framework is more subtle than it first appears. Teachers who have used the framework to structure extended enquiry about their practice have found that it stimulates them to learn more about their subject matter, their students and their assumptions about learning even as it guides them to make profound changes in the way they plan, conduct, and assess their work with students”. (M. Stone Wiske, Teaching for Understanding; Linking Research with Practice Jossey Bass 1998) TFU framework….

21 The Dimensions of Disciplinary Understanding Knowledge: ( What ?) What questions do experts ask? What do they need to know about? Methods: (How?) How do experts find out? Purposes (Why?) Why do they do what they do? What is the goal? How do experts use what they know? Forms (How Expressed?) How do experts communicate? What are the tools of the discipline?

22 Teaching for understanding Pedagogical framework  Generative Topics: central, accessible, exciting, making multiple connections  Understanding Goals: public, interrogative, holistic and specific – the big picture  Performances of Understanding – what the students do to demonstrate and develop understanding  Ongoing assessment : continuous feedback to students Disciplinary Framework – the Dimensions of understanding  Knowledge – conceptual frameworks of the discipline  Method – how experts think in the discipline  Purpose – why this topic is worth studying – ownership  Form – how understanding is represented  “Pedagogical content knowledge”  TfU fuses the two  SoTL lens- grammar of practice

23 SotL steps TfU and SoTL  TfU as sotl process :  It has all the rigour of good curriculum design and its focus on student learning  The focus is on active learning and student performance/doing to demonstrate and develop understanding  Methods of assessment provide raw data for faculty re their student learning – and for me  It helps faculty to develop a language of practice – the naming of parts Embedding Sotl in the culture -  Developing a community of practice  Building trust and security over time  Creating opportunities for discussion and reflection at each session  Providing food for thought  Aligning assessment with SoTL  Providing opportunities for teachers to publish and to gain recognition ( President’s Awards, NAIRTL grants and publications and international conferences )

24  Bernstein, D., Burnett, A., Goodburn, A & Savory, P. (2006). Making Teaching and Learning Visible: Course Portfolios and the Peer Review of Teaching. Bolton, MA: Anker Publishing Co.  Blythe, T. (1999) The Teaching for Understanding Guide  Cross, K. P. (1996). Classroom Research: Implementing the Scholarship of Teaching. San Francisco: Jossey- Bass.  Hetland, L. (2002). Introduction to TfU video resources, Harvard: Project Zero Classroom, 1-5.  Hutchings, P. (ed.), (1998a). The Course Portfolio: How Faculty Can Examine Their Teaching to Advance Practice and Improve Student Learning, Washington, DC: American Association for Higher Education (AAHE).  McKinney, K. (2004). The scholarship of teaching and learning: Past lessons, current challenges and future visions, in C. Wehlburg & S. Chadwick- Blossey (eds.) To Improve the Academy: Vol 22. Resources for Faculty, Instructional and Organizational Development (pp.3- 19). Bolton, MA: Anker.  McKinney, K. & Jarvis, P. (2009) Beyond lines on the CV: Faculty applications of their SoTL research. IJSoTL, Vol.3. No 1.  Shulman, L (2004) Teaching as Community Property: Essays on Higher Education  Wiske, M. (1998) Teaching for Understanding: Linking Research with Practice Bibliography: key TfU/SoTL texts

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