In the last lecture, I talked about a two assumptions that a constructivist perspective would disagree with under the common sense of teaching. So I'd like to look at the first assumption, and that assumption was that I should focus on what I do as the teacher and typically what I'm doing as the teacher, would be telling students information, and having them practice that information until they are able to perform appropriately. Let me think about this idea of common sense first, and so what is common sense? I'd like to tell a story to illustrate perhaps one view of common sense. When I was first in England, this was back in the '80s, and I was crossing the street, and I knew, of course, that you should look both ways. Anyone knows that, that's common sense. So I looked left to make sure there wasn't a car coming. I stepped out into the road, and looked right, and a car whizzed by and missed me by inches. I'm sure the car driver was looking at me, and said, "That guy doesn't have any common sense." But I did have common sense. I mean, I knew that in the United States, cars would first be coming from my left. Therefore, I need to look left first in order to make sure that there's not a car coming from that direction. I can go out a little bit, and then look right to make sure there's not a car coming from the right and then if there's no cars coming, then I can cross the street. But obviously, that common sense doesn't work in England and last time I was there, this past summer, and I took this photo. Apparently, they've caught on that people are doing the same thing that I did and so they're letting people know, who are from America or from Europe, that they need to look right and not left when they cross the street. That that's where they should look first. So this is an example of common sense but it's different, and so the common sense that I had as an American, was not the appropriate common sense when I went to England, for crossing the street, or for driving, or for other things. There are a lot of other cultural examples where the common sense of one culture would be considered ridiculous in another culture, and I wanted to ask, does this translate to teaching? Is their a common sense of teaching that perhaps might be appropriate in some contexts but not appropriate in other contexts. Let me tell another story here from my own experience. One of the most valuable courses that I ever took followed a common sense of teaching of providing students with information and then having them practice that information until they get good at what they're supposed to be good at, and that was typing. I took a course when I was in eighth grade on typing and the teacher started us out by telling us very specifically where to put our fingers on the home row, and then we practiced typing words or combinations of letters that use just those letters that were on the home row, and then we branched out, and added in other letters until we were competent at typing every letter on the keyboard fairly quickly, and accurately. That was the end of the story. Once we could type quickly and accurately, that accomplished the goals of the course and we were done. It certainly doesn't make much sense to talk about a conceptual understanding of typing. There's not much to understand. You type and that makes words appear on the paper. That's pretty much all that you need to understand. On the other hand, let's consider another context where this common sense of teaching might not be appropriate, just like my American common sense wasn't appropriate when crossing the street in England, and that's the topic of chemical reactions, and balancing chemical equations. So here's an example of a chemical equation, H2 plus O2 yields H2O. If you look closely at this equation, you can see that it's not balanced. So there is two H's on the left. There is an H2. There's two H's on the right, part of the H2O. But on the left, there's two O's, but on the right there is only one O, and so their is not the same number of letters of each to the left of the arrow and to the right of the arrow. So if we play around with it, we can come to this by adding coefficients, and so now we have two groups of H, of two H's. One group of two O's, yielding two groups of H2O. So now we have four H's on the left, and four H's on the right. We have two O's on the left and two O's on the right because the two groups of H2O would have two O's, and so everything is balanced. In teaching this, one could of course teach students how to balance chemical equations, tricks to use to come up with balanced equations, and students could get very proficient at coming up with balanced equations, with the same number of each letter on the left as on the right. But does this mean that they've learned everything they need to learn about chemical equations? I would answer, absolutely not. Whereas there's not much to talk about in terms of a conceptual understanding of typing, there is a huge amount that's involved in the conceptual understanding of chemical equations. I'm not going to read all of this. I just wanted to illustrate that there's an awful lot that goes into an understanding of chemical equations. It's much more than just the ability to balance the equation. So let's look at the third bullet for example. Atoms and molecules are in constant motion and therefore constantly bump into each other, and the fourth one, when atoms and molecules bump into each other sometimes they stick sometimes molecules get broken up etc. So there are a number of ideas here and again not just the sentences as they appear here but the conceptual ideas underlying those sentences are really what we want students to get out of an instruction into chemical reactions, not simply the ability or the behavior of balancing chemical equations. So comparing typing and chemistry, we can see that they're very different. In typing, providing students with information then having them practice and information works perfectly, and when they can type quickly and accurately, then mission accomplished. On the other hand, you could do the same thing with chemical equations by having students practice balancing chemical equations, but there's an awful lot of conceptual depth that would then be missed. So the common sense that goes into teaching typing or teaching any other kind of a behavioral skill falls apart when there's a lot of conceptual depth. So I want to ask a question here and that question is, is this an okay statement about teaching and learning? If students don't know certain things, they need to be taught so they will learn these things. So I'd like to ask you to take just a moment to write down some thoughts in the text box and when we come back, we'll talk more about it. So here's that statement again, students don't know certain things. They need to be taught so they will learn these things. I think that works perfectly well for typing. I didn't know how to type, I needed to be taught and told things, made to practice, so that I would learn that behavioral skill. But I think that, again, that relies on some problematic assumptions from a constructivist perspective. Students are empty and inert. They need to be told and pushed, until they exhibit appropriate behaviors. So constructivism questions these assumptions and ask well maybe students aren't empty and maybe they are active. Maybe they need to be, rather than told and pushed, maybe they need to have their ideas drawn out and they can then express critique and revise their ideas. Maybe it's not just a matter of appropriate behaviors, but a development of understandings. So to illustrate this, here are a couple of examples of lessons from the Shifter article. This one, Karen Schweitzer talks about teaching her first grade students to measure the length of a blue whale. So what she did was she took the yardstick and she showed them exactly how to lay the yard stick out as much as many times as needed in order to measure out a 100 feet. While this seems like a perfectly appropriate way to do it, she questioned whether this was really providing her students with anything. Was it helping them to understand the underlying assumptions going into measurement? A different approach was illustrated by Anne Hendry in the same article, where she asked her students "How can we communicate to the king how long the Mayflower is," and she had sketched out with tape an outline of the Mayflower on her classroom floor. So she asked she just asked her students, "How can we tell the king how big the Mayflower is?" Then, she left it as a problem for them to solve. It took a little while but after some hemming in huh-ing, one of the students said, "Well, I'm four feet tall and this boat is a lot bigger than I am, so it must be bigger than four feet." I think the students name was Tom. So they asked Tom to lay down in the boat and he laid down four times. So they decided that it was four Tom's long. So the students were bringing up ideas and they were coming up with ways of solving the problem. Then the teacher said, "Well, but the king doesn't know Tom. How would he know what four Tom's long means?" So this brought up the issue of a standard and so they suggested "Well, maybe we could use hands like they used hands to measure horses," and so they tried it with hands and they tried it with different hands and came up with different numbers and so that raised another quandary. They they then tried it with feet and with different feet, you would come up with different numbers. Then, they finally decided that what we need to do is, we need to trace out someone's foot on a piece of paper and then use that standard as a way of measuring the boat. So through this process of coming up with ideas, critiquing and revising their ideas, they began to get a real understanding of these foundational ideas of measurement, that you need to have a standard, that you need to lay that standard, not overlapping and not with gaps. These are fundamental ideas of measurement. Interestingly during this lesson, one of the students was was handling a ruler and didn't even think of using it. So the students had not developed these ideas, they really needed this environment to develop those ideas. So to recap, thinking about transmissionism and constructivism with the whale example as an example of a transmission is less than in my learning to type versus the constructivist lesson that we saw with the Mayflower. Under transmissionist assumptions, as a teacher, my focus should be on my own showing and telling. I should be sure to tell students information clearly and then direct them to practice using that information. Students talking with each other is a distraction that keeps them from listening to me as the teacher. From a constructivist perspective as a teacher, my focus should be on students ideas, and helping them express critique and modify their ideas. In doing that, student interaction is often central in these processes. So rather than viewing students talking with each other as something that distracts them from my actions of telling them things, I see that as central in helping them to bring up critique and modify their own ideas. In the next lecture, we'll look at the second assumption that I can get ideas across.