Reminding people of what they already know—a few good reads

You might be familiar with Charles Dickens’ satire of a teacher who believed that only facts were important in life. When a female student whose father raised horses and who fed and groomed these horses every day could not define a horse, the teacher, Mr. Gradgrind said she knew nothing. Here is an abbreviated dialog from Hard Times.

Mr. Gradgrind: Girl number twenty, Sissy Jupe, your definition of a horse?

Sissy Jupe: . . . . silence. (A student whose father raised horses and who fed horses and groomed them every day and who had pictures of horses on the wallpaper in her bedroom.)

Mr. Gradgrind: Girl number twenty unable to define one of the commonest of animals. Bitzer, your definition of a horse!

Bitzer: Quadruped. Gramnivorous. Forty teeth, namely twenty-four grinders, four eye-teeth, and twelve incisors. Sheds coat in the spring; in marshy countries, sheds hoofs, too. Hoofs hard, but required to be shod with iron. Age known by marks in mouth.

Mr. Gradgind: Now you all know what a horse is!

Tragically, in classrooms around the world, teachers focus on what Douglas Barnes has called school knowledge like definitions rather than world knowledge like experience. So rather than reminding students of what they already know—Sissy Jupe knew more about horses than Mr. Gradgrind or Bitzer or any other students since she helped raise and care for them—Mr. Gradgrind tried to show what most of his students did not know. Around the world, every study of classroom interaction shows that 80% to 90% of teacher questions are fact questions which require students to recall and regurgitate facts that either the teacher or text has provided.

If you are curious about this phenomenon and keen to change the usual patterns, here are a few books that will show how much more we as teachers and our students can learn if we alter the types of questions we ask and increase the amount of time we provide for our students to respond.

The recent events in Japan show that what is needed are the ability to relate experience and information in order to solve problems. One of the lessons from experience is that things do not work the way they are supposed to work. Those who can adjust their actions and move beyond the learning they received from books are those who are better at solving problems. Neither Barnes nor I or Duckworth are saying that reading nor listening to what others have learned is important. Rather we are saying we have to relate this to experience.

Nash shows how having us write first from what we know best about what we have done leads to richer writing than starting with the abstract so though he does not discuss interactions as Barnes and Duckworth do, he discusses the interactions between various voices each of us has.

Barnes, Douglas. 1976. From communication to curriculum. Harmondsworth, England: Penguin.

Duckworth, Eleanor. 1996 The Having of Wonderful Ideas. New York: Teachers College Press.

Duckworth, Eleanor. 2001. Tell Me More: Listening to Learners Explain. New York: Teachers College Press.

Robert J. Nash. 2004. Liberating scholarly writing—the power of personal narrative. New York: Teachers College Press. ISBN 9 780807 745250

Postman, Neil. 1995. The end of education. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.

Smith, Frank. 1998. The Book of Learning and Forgetting. New York: Teachers College Press

Sylvia Ashton Warner. 1965. Teacher. Various Publishers but none in New Zealand though this is where she taught and developed her ideas.

Re why I have included Postman, you will see when you read his 1995 book, or anything else he wrote.

6.7 Grade Level 68% Flesch Reading Ease

Reminding people of what they already know—a few good reads

You might be familiar with Charles Dickens’ satire of a teacher who believed that only facts were important in life. When a female student whose father raised horses and who fed and groomed these horses every day could not define a horse, the teacher, Mr. Gradgrind said she knew nothing. Here is an abbreviated dialog from Hard Times.

Mr. Gradgrind: Girl number twenty, Sissy Jupe, your definition of a horse?

Sissy Jupe: . . . . silence. (A student whose father raised horses and who fed horses and groomed them every day and who had pictures of horses on the wallpaper in her bedroom.)

Mr. Gradgrind: Girl number twenty unable to define one of the commonest of animals. Bitzer, your definition of a horse!

Bitzer: Quadruped. Gramnivorous. Forty teeth, namely twenty-four grinders, four eye-teeth, and twelve incisors. Sheds coat in the spring; in marshy countries, sheds hoofs, too. Hoofs hard, but required to be shod with iron. Age known by marks in mouth.

Mr. Gradgind: Now you all know what a horse is!

Tragically, in classrooms around the world, teachers focus on what Douglas Barnes has called school knowledge like definitions rather than world knowledge like experience. So rather than reminding students of what they already know—Sissy Jupe knew more about horses than Mr. Gradgrind or Bitzer or any other students since she helped raise and care for them—Mr. Gradgrind tried to show what most of his students did not know. Around the world, every study of classroom interaction shows that 80% to 90% of teacher questions are fact questions which require students to recall and regurgitate facts that either the teacher or text has provided.

If you are curious about this phenomenon and keen to change the usual patterns, here are a few books that will show how much more we as teachers and our students can learn if we alter the types of questions we ask and increase the amount of time we provide for our students to respond.

The recent events in Japan show that what is needed are the ability to relate experience and information in order to solve problems. One of the lessons from experience is that things do not work the way they are supposed to work. Those who can adjust their actions and move beyond the learning they received from books are those who are better at solving problems. Neither Barnes nor I or Duckworth are saying that reading nor listening to what others have learned is important. Rather we are saying we have to relate this to experience.

Nash shows how having us write first from what we know best about what we have done leads to richer writing than starting with the abstract so though he does not discuss interactions as Barnes and Duckworth do, he discusses the interactions between various voices each of us has.

Barnes, Douglas. 1976. From communication to curriculum. Harmondsworth, England: Penguin.

Duckworth, Eleanor. 1996 The Having of Wonderful Ideas. New York: Teachers College Press.

Duckworth, Eleanor. 2001. Tell Me More: Listening to Learners Explain. New York: Teachers College Press.

Robert J. Nash. 2004. Liberating scholarly writing—the power of personal narrative. New York: Teachers College Press. ISBN 9 780807 745250

Postman, Neil. 1995. The end of education. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.

Smith, Frank. 1998. The Book of Learning and Forgetting. New York: Teachers College Press

Sylvia Ashton Warner. 1965. Teacher. Various Publishers but none in New Zealand though this is where she taught and developed her ideas.

Re why I have included Postman, you will see when you read his 1995 book, or anything else he wrote.

6.7 Grade Level 68% Flesch Reading Ease

Reminding people of what they already know—a few good reads

You might be familiar with Charles Dickens’ satire of a teacher who believed that only facts were important in life. When a female student whose father raised horses and who fed and groomed these horses every day could not define a horse, the teacher, Mr. Gradgrind said she knew nothing. Here is an abbreviated dialog from Hard Times.

Mr. Gradgrind: Girl number twenty, Sissy Jupe, your definition of a horse?

Sissy Jupe: . . . . silence. (A student whose father raised horses and who fed horses and groomed them every day and who had pictures of horses on the wallpaper in her bedroom.)

Mr. Gradgrind: Girl number twenty unable to define one of the commonest of animals. Bitzer, your definition of a horse!

Bitzer: Quadruped. Gramnivorous. Forty teeth, namely twenty-four grinders, four eye-teeth, and twelve incisors. Sheds coat in the spring; in marshy countries, sheds hoofs, too. Hoofs hard, but required to be shod with iron. Age known by marks in mouth.

Mr. Gradgind: Now you all know what a horse is!

Tragically, in classrooms around the world, teachers focus on what Douglas Barnes has called school knowledge like definitions rather than world knowledge like experience. So rather than reminding students of what they already know—Sissy Jupe knew more about horses than Mr. Gradgrind or Bitzer or any other students since she helped raise and care for them—Mr. Gradgrind tried to show what most of his students did not know. Around the world, every study of classroom interaction shows that 80% to 90% of teacher questions are fact questions which require students to recall and regurgitate facts that either the teacher or text has provided.

If you are curious about this phenomenon and keen to change the usual patterns, here are a few books that will show how much more we as teachers and our students can learn if we alter the types of questions we ask and increase the amount of time we provide for our students to respond.

The recent events in Japan show that what is needed are the ability to relate experience and information in order to solve problems. One of the lessons from experience is that things do not work the way they are supposed to work. Those who can adjust their actions and move beyond the learning they received from books are those who are better at solving problems. Neither Barnes nor I or Duckworth are saying that reading nor listening to what others have learned is important. Rather we are saying we have to relate this to experience.

Nash shows how having us write first from what we know best about what we have done leads to richer writing than starting with the abstract so though he does not discuss interactions as Barnes and Duckworth do, he discusses the interactions between various voices each of us has.

Barnes, Douglas. 1976. From communication to curriculum. Harmondsworth, England: Penguin.

Duckworth, Eleanor. 1996 The Having of Wonderful Ideas. New York: Teachers College Press.

Duckworth, Eleanor. 2001. Tell Me More: Listening to Learners Explain. New York: Teachers College Press.

Robert J. Nash. 2004. Liberating scholarly writing—the power of personal narrative. New York: Teachers College Press. ISBN 9 780807 745250

Postman, Neil. 1995. The end of education. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.

Smith, Frank. 1998. The Book of Learning and Forgetting. New York: Teachers College Press

Sylvia Ashton Warner. 1965. Teacher. Various Publishers but none in New Zealand though this is where she taught and developed her ideas.

Re why I have included Postman, you will see when you read his 1995 book, or anything else he wrote.

6.7 Grade Level 68% Flesch Reading Ease