We began with a proposal to teach math in an engaging, challenging manner through the use of Bansho and the integration of technology. But as we pour through the material and even begin to explore a bit of of “life outside the textbook”, we are increasingly aware of just how complex a matter this teaching business is! If we want to do bansho, we have to have a climate that fosters “Grand Conversations” (GC). And if we want to engage our students in GC, then we have to give them the skill set to be able to do so effectively. That may mean starting at the most basic level, with a partner conversation about what they did this weekend, and then mirroring it back, i.e. one partner paraphrases what the other said, and then checks to see if that was “right”. Once that is in place, we build in longer conversations with larger groups. This of course means some intentional timetabling and well-thought-out classroom management.
Thinking about this building-on of skills makes me ponder constructivism, and problem-based approach to mathematical instruction. After all, PBL assumes that the basic skills emerge as students work on solving a larger problem, and that they are consolidated during the debrief portion of the three-part lesson plan. Isn’t what we’re proposing to do with oral language skill building counter to this philosophy? How can we combine the two? Do we engage students in a large conversation first, and have them co-construct criteria with us before we begin from the “beginning” (the partner conversation)?
Needless to say, when I remembered an article which a colleague at the university where I used to teach gave me a few years ago (and which I shamefull have not yet read!!!), I was excited to read it. Among other things, the article on Complexity Theory in Education by Keith Morrison introduces (from the abstract) “the significance of networking and connectedness; non-linear learning organizations; setting conditions for change by emergence and self-organization; changing external and internal environments; schools and learners as open, complex adaptive systems; cooperation and competition; pedagogy; and the significance of context.”
I have no doubt that this paper will confirm what Dale and I are already discovering: Teaching is complex!
(NB - I plan to read the article this weekend and blog about it on my personal blog at www.verateschow.ca)