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Inquiry Strategies for Problematizing

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1 Inquiry Strategies for Problematizing
the Material of your Discipline University of Louisville 2011 Tine Reimers, Ph.D. University at Albany (SUNY)

2 “Critical Thinking is… self-directed, self-disciplined, self-monitored, and self-corrective thinking.” (Richard Paul and Linda Elder) B B

3 It’s easy to change what people know.
It’s much harder to change how people think. B

4 You are anthropologists doing an ethnographic study of higher education culture. Work with the other anthropologists at your table. Together, create a single hypothesis about college culture to explain how ALL of these data are related to key cultural characteristics. “No, I will not share my lecture notes with colleagues—I spent years developing these.” “___(my discipline here)___ is so complex and difficult that students have to learn all the basics first, before they can even begin to…” “If I post my lectures on the web, students won’t have a reason to come to class anymore.” “I have to lecture because students won’t be able to understand these concepts on their own when they read.” “If I post all my notes on the web, the students will have all the answers for the test.” Collect!!!! T

5 Meta-cognitive moment: You have just experienced a “Data Splash”
Raw data = basis for activity design Compare and contrast individual data points (analysis) Construct hypothesis (synthesis, abstraction, prediction) Imagine, speculate, guess (attitudinal development) B

6 Information transfer drives teaching
The professors’ statements reflect widespread and often unexamined assumptions about university teaching practices Information transfer drives teaching (knowledge is power and authority) Information reception drives “learning” (students are expected to wait for teacher to disseminate the “correct” information) How did we get here? B


8 One root of the problem is medieval
In Europe of 1200 AD… Not many books Not many readers Not much “information” Information is “sacred” & owned by a few Professor-priest = guardian of knowledge B

9 …plus, a modern source of the problem
The enormous amount of available information leads to… “the panic of teaching content” B

10 Higher Ed’s “Perfect Storm”
The medieval sacredness of information confronts the modern deluge of information. B

11 Higher Ed’s “Perfect Storm”
Consequence: the “insanity” of the modern college course: We press harder and harder to teach more and more information, while students seem to achieve less and less. B

12 One professor’s personal insanity:
“Since my students only remember 10% of what I tell them, I have to tell them 10 times the amount that I want to tell them, so that the 10% they remember is 100% of what I really want them to learn.” But which 10% will they remember? B

ECAUSEEVERYTHINGISESSENTIAL. So, why wouldn’t students continually ask, “Hey, Professor, can you tell us what’s going to be on the test?”? B

14 Frustrated Student: “You want me to try to guess the answer? How can I? You haven’t even covered that chapter yet!”

15 How do we escape the insanity?

16 One assumption and one strategy
The goal of instruction is to create dynamic conditions that promote student inquiry Strategy: Dynamic conditions are created by subverting the traditional “academic model” for teaching and learning

17 What is the Academic model?
1. Instructors think: my students need to know a lot before they can think for themselves 2. Students think: I need to know a lot before I can think for myself (Dominant operational value: students should not ask questions until they know lots of answers!!)

18 General effects of the academic model
Non-dynamic relationship with information: students have nothing to discover as beginners No connectivity between data and concepts or theories (see PIT Case from yesterday) Students’ lack of independence, and lack of a sense of responsibility for their own learning and thinking skills

19 How do we subvert the academic model?
(re-) “problematize” the knowledge of the discipline… …to inhibit easy consumption …to reveal the originating questions of the discipline

20 In the envelope you will see several small texts.
Work in groups to complete the following 3 tasks. In the envelope you will see several small texts. Each text is a test question. Identify a “reader” for your group, to read each statement out loud. Listen, and as a group, order these questions from most difficult to least difficult. Do not sort according to discipline…the sorting criterion is the level of intellectual challenge If possible, identify categories of questions according to difficulty. (group 1, group 2, etc.) Invent a descriptive name/label for each category

21 Reflection I What difficulties did you have in trying to categorize these questions?

22 Reflection II The question-sorting exercise is loosely based on common education concepts that inform course and assessment design (Bloom) recall comprehension application analysis synthesis evaluation At your tables: What are some benefits to asking experienced educators (YOU!) to have a “new” discussion about concepts and theories that are very familiar?

23 What did Socrates do to make his students think?
Problematize the familiar Example: Phaedrus, What is love? What is Beauty? What is good?

24 Bloom’s Research Collected thousands of questions and assignments to compare and sort Created categories according to cognitive principles The question exercise is a staged retracing of Bloom’s familiar research.

25 This task is from Environmental Chemistry Note: if you have a strong background in atmospheric or related earth and natural sciences, please take the role of “silent observer” while your group carries out the following activity.

26 The graph represents the relationship between
altitude atmospheric pressure atmospheric temperature

27 Work in groups at your tables to prepare answers to the following:
Which of the lines indicates changes in pressure? Which of the lines indicates changes in temperature? How do you explain the contrasting shapes of these two lines?

28 Meta-cognitive moment
How did you (and your group) go about answering the question? What was your process?

29 What this exercise does…
Asks students to use their rudimentary knowledge, intuition, imagination, personal experience, and analytical skills to explain data related to specific atmospheric phenomena Forces students to speculate (think conceptually) without complete information (Lack of determinant framework and details forces conversation to be conceptual rather than “calculational”)

30 What all good experts do a lot of…
Attempt to predict the data that will be collected, given the research question (hypothesis) Make “educated guesses” based on limited, minimal or even no data Speculate, estimate, “guesstimate” and imagine….

31 How the textbook presented the graph…
After a detailed description of atmospheric composition and information about variation of pressure and density with altitude. Telling the students stuff After instructions on how to write it as an equation. As a non-active visualization after loads of information Visual aid repeating what they’ve been told

32 College textbooks = Expensive books that provide answers
to questions that students never asked

33 The function of a textbook within the academic model:
provide flawless, complete information Assumption: if you memorize a biology textbook, you will be a biologist.

34 Why textbooks often fail our students and undermine instruction
Illusion of comprehensiveness Illusion of seamless continuity Illusion of knowledge as “finished” (i.e. not worthy of further inquiry) rather than “under construction”

35 A problem of definitions
An “academic discipline” (biology, music, history, law, pharmacy, literature)…is a particular way of observing, thinking, judging, acting, creating and managing a body of changing information. An “academic discipline” is NOT just a collection of concepts, theories and information (which are always changing).

36 Our challenge going forward:
How do we change students’ relationship with the information of our discipline? How do we take the stuff of textbooks and lectures and turn them into objects of inquiry?

37 In a classroom that targets fundamental change in how students see themselves in the learning process… …students navigate encounters with what is new, unfiltered, unfamiliar, and untidy… BEFORE they learn procedures and conceptual tools that show the way.

38 Let Data Drive Inquiry: a Simple Plan
1. Start with the raw materials and common representations of the discipline (images, charts, graphs, paragraphs) 2. Isolate the material from its context (“stage it”) so students have no access to an explanation Lift it from the book/article and make a photocopy Delete context Delete introduction (literature, art) Use “similar” or parallel cases not in the textbook 3. Require students to make a specific judgment about the meaning/importance of the material/object (force a “guess”) BEFORE readings or lectures on the same information.

39 Traditional college teaching often takes place in a
“culture of instruction” (linear, procedural) as distinct from a “culture of inquiry” (messy knowledge-making)

40 A “culture of instruction” assumes that disciplinary knowledge consists of transferable content chunks and procedures Language professor “transfers” correct grammar to students Chemistry professor “transfers” research procedure to students Sociology professor “transfers” theories of social inequality to students Math professor “transfers” formulas and algorithms to students Literature professor “transfers” various “lenses” (gender; history; Marxism, etc.) through which to read Business professor “transfers” management/accounting/finance models to students Algorithmic is not limited to math. Lenses in lit are a kind of algorithm: read like a marxist

41 Basic tenet of the “culture of instruction”
Learning (“transfer”) is simple and straightforward. We (the professors) have already done all the heavy lifting to collect, sort and distill the best information, so all you have to do is take it and use it… “Just follow these directions and you’ll get a good result…” + “Why can’t students follow directions?!!!!” Learned heuristics exclude other evidence by their very nature. Shortcuts as necessary but dangerous and not a way of thinking, it’s a procedural action which saves time

42 Our challenge: Procedural learning does not develop in students the persistence and inventiveness needed to explore real disciplinary problems, e.g… --What should students be able to do when there is not enough information to solve key problems? --What should students be able to do when there is too much information?

43 Revisiting the old karate problem
A karate expert hits downward with his bare hand on a stack of 3 two-inch thick solid concrete blocks supported at both ends. What happens? Describe the exact physical process of what happens to the blocks. (i.e.: Envision the breakage in extreme slow motion: Where and how does breakage begin? Precisely where do molecules begin to separate, and why?) If you have a background in physics, geology or related fields, please take the role of silent observer of your group’s conversation Sketch on board…

44 Here are 4 concepts that might help explain this problem
Here are 4 concepts that might help explain this problem. Incorporate any or all of these terms into your prediction and description in any way that seems useful. Feel free to revise your prediction, if you want to. Tensile stress (like pulling on a wire from both ends) Compressive stress (putting weight or other force on something) Shear stress (putting pressure on an object in opposing directions: the pressure exerted by scissors in cutting paper) Elasticity (an object’s capacity to return to its original shape after receiving stress)

45 A meta-cognitive moment!!!
In your groups, analyze the two conversations you just had. How were they different? What was the nature of the first conversation? What happened when you got the new information? What was the nature of the second conversation?

46 What I did…(Part 1) 1. Converted a procedural question (“Explain how these 3 kinds of stress are involved in breaking hard objects”)… …into an inquiry (thought experiment): “Given X circumstances, what will happen, why, and how?” Inquiry: Student is asked to “set” the problem by judging which factors are likely to be relevant judging what information is missing or has to be assumed developing, borrowing, adapting or remembering relevant concepts

47 Sample Fermi Problem On a Saturday afternoon, you pull into a parking lot with unmetered spaces near a shopping area. You circle around, but there are no empty spots. You decide to wait at one end of the lot where you can see (and command) about 20 spaces. How long do you have to wait before someone frees up a space? (Mazur, Eric, The Problem with problems, Optics and Photonics, June 1996)

48 What the textbook will do to this type of problem
On a Saturday afternoon, you pull into a parking lot with unmetered spaces near a shopping area. You circle around, but there are no empty spots. You decide to wait at one end of the lot where you can see (and command) about 20 spaces. On average people shop for about two hours. If people leave at regularly spaced intervals, how long do you have to wait before someone frees up a space? Use the formula

49 Fermi problems ask us to
Make assumptions Make estimates Develop a model Work out the model

50 Setting the problem… (deciding what to include and exclude in the inquiry) …is the cornerstone of knowledge-making in any discipline. Literature: which imagery should I focus on? Which details of the story/poem will be relevant to a convincing interpretation? Social Science: How should I formulate the question? What data is relevant? Whose perspective should be considered?

51 What I did (part 2) Converted a procedural question to an inquiry.
Asked you to translate your improvised analysis into more precise scientific language Shows tension between exploration and application Compare “normal” teaching practice: Conceptual vocabulary is provided first, then applied procedurally like peanut butter on bread

52 Question ◄ ——— ► Data ◄ ——— ► Significance
The Inquiry Model Question ◄ ——— ► Data ◄ ——— ► Significance Questions How do hard objects break when put under stress? How is stress transferred through hard objects? (hypothesis = best guess) Data We see (or imagine) the blocks breaking Significance Extractable concepts and principles (whether we can name them or not--neo-scientists!!)

53 The learning cycle (David Kolb)

54 Brain’s Learning cycle (diagram from James Zull)

55 One common source of student boredom and low performance:
The “learning cycle” is not engaged fully when instructions begins exclusively with abstractions: theories; -isms; concepts; equations; formulas A concrete challenge (real or imagined) can be the entry point for understanding abstractions. --What might be the relationship between these two objects? --What could be causing this phenomenon? --What’s weird about the way this story is being told?

56 The scientific method is the process of knowledge-making in any discipline because it is based on the structure of human learning and thinking

57 Traditional teaching can be static
Significance ◄ ——— ► Significance ◄ ——— ► Significance “Procedural instruction” short-circuits the brain’s knowledge-making process by omitting Question and Data stages of knowledge-making. e.g., Plug and chug: “Here are 3 types of stress involved in breaking cookies. Now explain how it works with blocks.” Memorize and hope: “Here is a definition of X. Remember this for future use. You’ll need it, I promise!!!”

58 The human brain “seeks” to make its own significance
Our teaching and learning processes are most effective when we feed this desire to “make significance.” How do we do this?

59 Creating Opportunities for Inquiry Start anywhere:
Question <------> Data <------> Significance What hypothesis can we construct to explore the question? What data will be generated by my hypothesis? What does this data signify? What question and hypothesis generated this data? What kinds of data were used to generate this significance? What new questions are generated by this significance?

60 Closing the loop (or, what I just asked you to do…)
Question ◄ ——— ► Data ◄ ——— ► Significance

61 Closing the loop (or what we just asked you to do…)
Question ◄ ——— ► Data ◄ ——— ► Significance | Question

62 Closing the loop (or what we just asked you to do…)
Question ◄ ——— ► Data ◄ ——— ► Significance | | | | Question Does your course ask students to challenge how knowledge of your discipline was made? This is the key transition for Critical Thinking

63 Closing the loop (or what I just asked you to do…)
Question ◄ ——— ► Data ◄ ——— ► Significance | | ▼ Significance◄ ——— ► Data ◄ ——— ► Question

64 Closing the loop (or what we just asked you to do…)
Question ◄ ——— ► Data ◄ ——— ► Significance ▲ ▲ | | | | | | ▼ ▼ Significance◄ ——— ► Data ◄ ——— ► Question

65 Question ◄ ——— ► Data ◄ ——— ► Significance ▲ ▲ | | | | | | ▼ ▼
▲ ▲ | | | | | | ▼ ▼ Significance◄ ——— ► Data ◄ ——— ► Question This is a spiral Normal teaching does not challenge the students to check the significance of research. You have to set them up to challenge research

66 “Problematizing the content”
Developing the foregoing inquiry on stereotypes required no special design, no special research, no special preparation by the instructor. Items were lifted from published research, turned “outcomes” into a “prediction,” put on a slide, to become the exercise. Previous example of concrete blocks: lifted from the end-of-chapter “study questions” of a physics textbook.

67 Place the research within its context of
MAKING KNOWLEDGE: Question  Data  Significance Open to the any chapter of any text you use and ask: How was this knowledge made? What was the Question? Hypothesis? Data? Significance? How can I put students on the path to RECREATE this thought process??

68 Learning through “inquiry” is a form of knowledge making…
For beginners: (re)making knowledge for myself that others have already made For experts: making new knowledge for the discipline Common fallacy in college teaching: Beginners don’t need to “make knowledge,” they just need to receive it so they can use it.

69 The Scientific Method is the codified process of making knowledge by extracting value from error and failure Observe Make a hypothesis or prediction Collect data, test, observe more closely, study Reflect, consider alternate theories, revise hypothesis/prediction Repeat as needed Error/Failure  valuable data has been collected Error/Failure ≠ lack of success

70 Inquiry’s essential tool: ERROR
Manufactured error (used by teachers to make grades) Vs Authentic error (used by experts to make knowledge) T

71 Manufactured error = failure to replicate pre-ordained correctness
Learner’s information does not match the teacher’s Discrepancies in information have no intrinsic value to learner Student responses: I gave the wrong answer, I’m dumb, I’ll never do well in this subject I gave the wrong answer, why did you trick me? You say my answer is not correct. What’s the right one, professor? Student’s Belief: evaluation of his answer is solely professor’s responsibility; student has none.

72 Authentic error = resulting from a quest to understand
Student: my thinking on this question was not confirmed by observation, experiment, study, analysis or calculation Questions emerging from authentic error: What went wrong? I wonder why…? What might I try now? How will I “learn my way out” of this dead-end? Professor, I’m stuck…is there something I’m not seeing? Student is responsible for evaluation of his or her answer.

73 Perceived risk is the intellectual and emotional key to learning to think in the discipline
Risk of Discovery (Joyful risk) associated with authentic trial and error: I’m taking a risk in order to know more; my errors are interesting, and lead me to more questions. If I’m wrong, let me try it again with new tools and more information. Risk of Incorrectness (Fearful risk) associated with error as “mistake” (manufactured error): I’m risking an answer because I am forced to, but my mistakes terrorize me because I will feel inadequate or cheated if I’m not right. HIGH PERFORMER: I give my answers willingly because I have studied and I know I’ll be right. (armored against error)

74 Critical Thinking occurs as a result of productive frustration from having tried to stretch to do something ambitious that did not succeed. Why didn’t my web catch that child? Why won’t this peg fit in this hole? Why don’t these chemicals interact the way I expected? Why didn’t you understand what I just said in French? Why doesn’t my solution seem believable (even to myself)? Why is the author telling this story in such a confusing way? Why doesn’t the professor just tell us the answer?

75 What advanced thinkers do well and often…
“Set” the problem by formulating questions from an over-abundance of possible ways to proceed, and from information gaps Attempt to predict the data that will be collected, given the research question and hypothesis (“thought experiments”) Make “educated guesses” based on limited, minimal or even no information Speculate, estimate, “guesstimate” and imagine…. Improvise solutions when confronted with messy situations (e.g. “navigate whitewater”) B

76 As college instructors we are trying to “stage” the Scientific Method for students (NO MATTER THE DISCIPLINE) This means: We provide a framework (stage) in which students must struggle to make decisions BEFORE they are given sufficient information to “determine” correct answers

77 For “Extra Credit”… Education Paradigms

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