Monday, August 1, 2011

Teaching to change minds: what's the role of text?

So, what do you think are the best ways to help students learn challenging topics? Does text have a place in the modern classroom? Think about your own work as we - in the northern hemisphere, anyway - begin preparing for the upcoming 2011-2012 school year. Are your lessons hands-on, and is that enough?

You'll have a better understanding of why I'm asking you to think about your own answer to that question once you read Marie-Claire Shanahan's recent blog post (cross-posted to Scientific American) about the qualities of text that are most correlated with conceptual change.
Both Tippett and Guzzetti were able to look at several comparisons in how refutation texts were used: texts on their own, texts used with classroom discussions, texts read before and after classroom demonstrations, and texts used with writing activities. Given how powerful direct experiences can be, I was surprised that both of the reviews showed that the most effective strategies were always combinations that included text and that text on its own was more powerful that any of the other methods on their own (e.g., discussions and demos). This says a lot about the power of what we read.
Put another way...

You might think that hands-on activities and discussions are enough. But according to research, that's just not true. Best practices in teaching for conceptual change integrate quality texts with hands-on work to directly elicit, confront, and resolve misconceptions.

Great information to keep in mind as we head back to the classroom.

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