Tuesday 8 May 2018

Cheap and nasty?  No way! 

It's all about engagement!

Some people may wonder why I do not use better materials than paper and dice to develop numeracy skills.  Well, I do.  But only when they improve learner thinking. 

My philosophy to teaching mathematics and numeracy is to focus entirely on student thinking.  Student thinking (which I call 'engagement') is a moment in time when the student stops thinking about everything except the task at hand (some call it 'flow')- they are absorbed fully in the moment as they struggle to make sense or meaning out of the information at hand.  It is in these rare moments that the learner 'constructs understanding'. And hence these are the most precious moments in a teacher or tutors day.  

Everything else is superfluous.  Everything else is killing time.  Everything else distracts.  

So, because I believe that it is only 'what happens in the head' that results in learning I am very utilitarian about my gear.  

My only question when using material is:  does this facilitate learner thinking?

To sum up the wise HULK below: Fancy resources look good but you do what you must do to get the job done. 

Image result for linked hulk smash

Self-regulated learning

The single biggest factor in learner success is a learners ability to self-regulate their learning.  It is the exact opposite to 'learned helplessness' that you should read about here.  Learn about it, understand it, and you will become a better educator.

Of course, self-regulated learning (SRL) is not easy to develop in learners particularly learners who have been beaten around by the educational sector.  Also SRL can be broken down into many sub-skills and dispositions that are generally developed separately but used cohesively.

I used to think that SRL was the secret to developing the potential of adult learners with problematic learning histories.  I used to think it was the answer to the literacy and numeracy problem.  No more embedded ELN, no more literacy or numeracy provision - just SRL.

I now realise that sitting below SRL are belief systems that dictate SRL - beliefs are the mainspring of downstream effects.

As such the form below is no good on its own, even with an extensive PD package that was almost developed and ready to go.

Moving on.

The problem of engagement

There is a line of thought in the numeracy discourse that goes like this: A learner's motivation in a certain area can be used to piggyback numeracy content.

An example is a learner who loves cars, and is on an automotive engineering course.  The theory states that they will engage to a greater degree with numeracy if it is presented in the context of car specs, and if the content is relevant to their needs.

It sounds true.  And there is some self-report data to support the idea.  Learners who believe that numeracy is useful tend to achieve better than those who don't.

But, I'm not so sure about all this.

Engagement in 'numeracy tasks' at a micro level is how numeracy skills are developed. Does the relevance of the situation context improve micro engagement?  Not from what I am seeing.

Here are some questions for numeracy tutors:

  • Do your learners engage more in numeracy tasks that are fun or important?
  • Do your learners engage more in numeracy tasks that have clear performance goals (how many can I get right) or conceptual understanding goals (a new way of thinking about an idea)?
  • Do your learners engage in different ways depending on the time of day, or the day of the week?
  • Are your learners motivated by passing assessments, or developing meaningful understandings of numeracy concepts that will be useful in their lives?
Finally, do your learners actually believe that the numeracy content they are learning on the programme is relevant to their needs?  And how would you know?

The joy of teaching and learning

This meme cracked me up for some reason.  I've been the teacher and the student.