Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Second pick of the cherries: impact, brains and furnished imaginations

Second batch of cherries (brought to in association with rent a cherry tree / Dal's cherry farm...)

I just stumbled across some straight to laptop notes from IATEFL. Just three more cherries and then I am done with this IATEFL reflecting / retelling / rehashing / rememberinglark:

Simon Borg: The impact of teacher education on in-service teachers’ beliefs

This session raised and answered some very important questions close to my heart. The key one:

To what extent does your work as a teacher educator make a difference in anyway to anyone at any time and what can you do to find out about it. An important question to regularly ask, and is particularly pertinent in light of my current research pathway.

When thinking about impact he asks us to consider impact on what and who.

  • Participation (teachers and learners – reach / participation)

  • Beliefs

  • Knowledge

  • Skills

  • Behavior

When do we expect the impact to occur?

From a research perspective how we collect the data about the impact becomes an important questions and he offered three observations:

  • Limited impact research about INSET

  • Impact often not a design feature of projects

  • Simplistic notion of impact (i.e.: end of course questionnaire = happy sheets  but how about in the medium to long term)

This project was to examine the impact of INSET on teacher’s beliefs:

Key Findings

  • Limited initial awareness of beliefs

  • Variable impact on beliefs: a real range, and some confusion about understanding, articulating, confirming, changing, and applying beliefs

  • Blurring of beliefs and practices

The word impact has krept into my research direction which is on improving / changing what I do, investigating my own practices / beliefs and how having these reflections impact on my work and lead to growth. I guess like Bailey (2001, p11) I am "simply keeping a close watch on my own teaching (training / work), to see what I could learn and how I cold improve". I am hoping to explore and inform my praxis. Next up,

Richard Kiely - The Furnished Imagination: What new teachers take to work

In this session there was a report of a study into thirty or so, trinity cert graduates about what they took to work from their courses. Kiely kept in touch with his grads and eventually set about using the conceptual framework of the furnished imagination to explain their experiences. Wenger coined the term the furnished imagination to talk about our changing ability to describe the our practice. Our practice is based on our shared historical and social resources, frameworks we have for understanding. When we interact with others (usually) we engage in situational; / socially oriented learning as part of a community of practice.

The emergent themes were that trinity TESOL cert holders left for work with:

  • Readiness and confidence

  • A platform for continued situated learning

  • the buds of a teacher identity forming

  • varying levels of support in place

  • a furnished imagination

Each graduate who goes into a school will be faced with a different reality. This will be based on:

  • The nature of the mentoring

  • The norms of the school

  • Their own language learning and schooling histories

The TESOL cert grad develops an awareness of their:

Knowledge what do you know, what do you not know

Procedural awareness and skills e.g. TTT is not good…not interrupting pair /grp work

Dispositions character is permanent / disposition can be shaped / attitudes can change

TESOL Identity – Block (2007) socially constructed, self-conscious, negotiated, ongoing narratives that individuals perform, interpret and project

A furnished imagination is a way of:

  • understanding teacher learning
  • tracking professional learning
  • capturing teacher learning as professional identity formation in sociocultural terms
  • validating learning within CERT TESOL courses

He rounds off with a general statement that learning teachers need support, mentoring and space to make mistakes.

James E Zull author of from Brain to Mind

He was somewhat controversial, in the sense that not everyone was sold on what he was saying, but I thought he was great. He talked about what we can learn from how brain biology about learning. I was impressed at having a HARD scientist rather than a social-scientist. He communicated his points clear enough for a novice of brain studies and made them relevant (ish) to us. He was an elderly looking frail man with a wicked sense of humour.

Stuff I didn't know:

  • Learning physically changes the brain: the cortex thickens super fast ages 1-4 and then gradually reduces in size from then
  • Total number of synapses produced decreases as we get on, due to new ones not being produced as fast in old age.

I liked the ideas that:

  • you can learn by forgetting things, by abandoning what doesn’t work.
  • you will have a more complex mind if you have a broader set of experiences in that the more complex the networks are the ‘better’ the knowledge

He finished off with this very Kolb like experiential learning summary of how science explains learning:

  • Experience-information

  • Reflect-make meaning

  • Create-Predict

  • Act-Test

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