TOT011: Teaching Curiosity, Is Pre-questioning effective? Interrelations between PCK and DI, and Illusory Superiority.

Teacher Ollie’s Takeaways is a weekly post (and sometimes a podcast!) bringing together all of the fascinating things that Ollie read throughout the week! Find all past posts of Teacher Ollie’s Takeaways here

How do we teach Curiosity?

In this blog post Michael Fordham writes that we can’t teach curiosity in the abstract, we need to teach students things that they can therefore be curious about.

Here’s an excerpt.

On this line, when I say that I want to cultivate the curiosity of my pupils, what I am in practice saying is that I want them to be curious about a greater range of things. I want to bring more parts of our reality into the realm of their experience. I cannot make them more or less curious per se: what I can do is give them more things to be curious about.

This is why memories are so important to me. A pupil who has remembered some of the things I taught her about neoclassical architecture is more likely to be curious about a building built in that style. Indeed, she may well be more likely to be curious about a building not built in that style. Another pupil who remembers something I taught him about the causes of cholera in the nineteenth century might have his ears prick up when he hears about an outbreak, or reads about it somewhere else. This is in part what I think people mean when they say that knowledge breeds more knowledge.

Should we use pre-questions?

This is a fantastic article detailing a study by Carpenter and Toftness that explores whether or not we should ask pre questions. Here’s what it found.

  1. The benefit of prequestioning prior to reading is that it improves students’ retention of the information that was asked about
  2. The cost of prequestioning prior to reading is that it reduces student’s retention of information that wasn’t asked about
  3. Interestingly, when pre-questioning for video we see a boost of retention of both prequestioned and non-prequestioned information.

So why is this?

Authors suggest that it could be because when an individual is reading, it’s easier for them to ignore information and focus on the pre-questioned information. When watching a video, the effect is for students to simply focus harder the whole time.

Podcast with Michaela Head of Mathematics, Dani Quinn

Well worth a listen, I’ll leave it at that.

The more a teacher knows about how to teach their subect, the more they should use direct instruction

In this post, Greg Ashman outlines how the work of Agodini and colleagues pitted two constructivist based approaches against two direct instruction approaches to middle years maths instruction (in a RCT). A recent analysis of their results by Eric Taylor found that for teachers who scored lower on a ‘Mathematical Knowledge for Teaching’ test (i.e., PCK), there was less difference between the outcomes of the constructivist and the DI methods. Ashman explains this as follows.

In a program where the teacher has to stand up and actually teach maths, their maths skills matter, but when the students have to figure things out for themselves then the more skilled teachers have no way of making use of their greater skill level.

And from this, Ashman makes the following suggestions.

  1. Primary teachers must pass a maths skills test if they are to teach mathematics (schools could perhaps reorganise so that maths was taught by specialists to get around the problem of getting all teachers to this level)
  2. Primary teachers who lack maths skills should be given training in this area
  3. Explicit programs for teaching maths should be adopted in primary schools

How to rebut an argument with style

With Name-calling at the lowest rung on the disagreement hierachy we move through Ad Hominem, Responding to Tone, Contradiction, Counterargument, Refutation, and conclude with Refuting the Central Point. A relevant article in these times of online jousting.

Why do some Immigrants Excel in Science?

The study by Marcos Rangel reported in the article found that a particular set of characteristics were associated with immigrant students doing particularly well in Science. The article states.

Bacolod and Rangel subdivided the immigrants in two ways. First, whether they arrived in early childhood, before age 10. Second, whether their native language was linguistically close to English — say, German — or less similar — say, Vietnamese. Most linguists agree that these two factors have a dramatic impact on someone’s chances of becoming perfectly fluent in a second language…

…among the subset of immigrants who attended college, the ones who arrived later and from more linguistically distinct places — think the Vietnamese teen, not the German toddler — were many times more likely to major in a STEM field.

The authors argue that this is simply specialisation suggesting “If it were just as easy for me to write with my left hand as with my right, I would be using both. But no, I specialize,”. So, in many ways, it appears to be a very rational decision. For those learning a second language later on in life, the greatest chance at success is to focus on an area where a potential language differential less threatens to be an achilles heel.

Hey teacher, are you really as good as you think at explaining things?

In this post, Ben Newmark details his somewhat humbling journey to clearer explanations for his students, and the role that videotaping himself played in this journey.

To remember: the phrase ‘Illusory superiority” coined in 1991 by Van Vperen. We tend to overestimate our abilities in relation to others.