The Plastic Brain

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Teachers’ Day with Martin Westwell – Follow up

This links to the post below, in which I reflected on some lesson from Teachers’ Day with Prof Westwell.

At the end of the day, he said that only 5% of us would put something we learned today into practice, and challenged us to commit to something in order to up that percentage.

Well, I took up that challenge in my next Maths class, teaching, of things, percentages. I chose to use principle 10 of Dan Meyer’s Ten Design Principles For Engaging Math Tasks

Highlight the limits of a student’s existing skills and knowledge. New mathematical tools are often developed to account for the limitations of the old ones. You can’t model the path of a basketball with linear equations — we need quadratics. You can’t model the growth of bacteria with a quadratic equations — we need exponentials. Offer students a challenge for which their old skills look useful but turn out to be ineffective. That moment of cognitive conflict can engage students in a discussion of new tools and counter the perception that math is a disjointed set of rules and procedures, each bearing no relationship to the one preceding it.

I used as my leading question: How can we order fractions with different denominators?

We came the position that it would be much easier if they had the same denominator. Hey presto, this is where I stepped in with the idea of percentages – A way of comparing fractional amounts, where the denominator is always 100.

I didn’t work perfectly, as these thing rarely do, but I got through to some of them, and it’s something I can build on.

At least I’m part of the 5%.

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Reflections on Teachers’ Day with Martin Westwell

On Martin Westwell

Prof Westwell is the Director of the Flinders Centre for Science Education in the 21st Century. The Centre aims to bring evidence-based research findings to teaching through various partnerships and programs.

On the Australian Curriculum

  • The new AC provides a sound foundation for moving Australian Education forward
  • It could be used to support a shift from industrial to post-industrial practices
  • For all those who watched the Ken Robinson RSA video and said “Yes!”, this is your chance.
  • The (Maths) proficiencies in the AC provide a useful way of drilling down to the “essence”. These are: Fluency, Understanding, Problem Solving, Reasoning.
  • I currently build through these sequentially, but there is no reason not to start at “higher” levels
  • The latter three can be referred to as Fluency+
  • Students do well in NAPLAN numeracy at fluency, poorly at Fluency+
  • Fluency+ is teachable and learnable, but not instructable (but Fluency is).
  • Westwell’s “essence” seems similar to Lynn Erikson‘s “concepts”, which form part of her concept-based curriculum, which itself is strongly influencing the IB MYP approach.

On Success Predictors

  • Self efficacy and self directedness have positive correlations with education success
  • A surface approach to learning has a negative effect, of the same order as procrastination and test anxiety

On Pedagogical Aspirations

  • Evidence-rich teaching and learning environments
  • Engagement is a three-legged stool, where cognitive, emotional and behavioural engagement are all required.
  • DECD (?) will be providing a new online resource for SA teachers, which will provide tools for marrying these aspirations and the AC.

ON “Dan Meyering”

  • Westwell has coined this phrase to refer to using techniques pioneered by Dan Meyer to bring new life and learning to his Maths classroom. If you don’t know of Dan Meyer, you really should check out his blog.
  • Some of the ideas discussed included – using intuition and guessing, helping less (knowing when to stand back), highlighting the limits of a student’s existing skills and knowledge
  • Dan’s key tip on engagement is perplexity