Thursday, August 28, 2008

Time to Reflect

I need to remember that I need time to reflect. Thus, what I say in class will sometimes be followed with amendments and amendments to those amendments as I have the time and space to reflect.

Case in point: Today when discussing the different between possessive, performative and proactive knowledge, Caitlin and Katie, separately made the point about different learning styles. I don't think I responded in a way that was as helpful as could have been. There is good reason to believe that different people have different strengths and weaknesses when it comes to ways of getting information (for example, I do very well with reading, less well with listening). Interestingly, we can typically become better at that which we are weak at, but it also makes sense to build on our strengths. Further, I honestly encourage all of you to make use of different ways of getting information (I couldn't get links to audio versions of readings but if you can find them cheaply, I encourage you to listen as well as read the texts).

But, I think that the strengths and weaknesses individuals have at getting information is different from what Perkins is talking about. I'm fairly certain, and my copy of the article isn't in front of me, that he's interested in how we think about what it means to know. Does knowing mean possessing information? Or, does it mean be able to use the information when called upon to do so (the performative understanding)? Or, does it mean knowing when the knowledge could fruitfully be used and using it well? I'm fairly certain that Perkins is arguing that the latter type (proactive knowledge) is not taken all that seriously -- I'm thinking, in particular, where he discusses the preferability of competent proactive knowledge over excellent performative knowledge.

When he discusses how to facilitate proactive learning in learners, it isn't by emphasizing reading or not reading, etc. It has to do with the circumstances under which the reader needs to get the information (however that may be most conducive for that particular student). I'm pretty sure Perkins is definitely opposed to students being told to read chapter 2 in preparation for being tested on chapter 2. I don't know that he'd be opposed to students being given a problem (that they are interested in) that involves using information from chapter 2 (though adapted to the situation) but the students have to figure it out. I think that Perkins believes that if students use the textbook this way (as a resource instead of a manual to be memorized) they will learn the information in a way that will make it more likely that they'll see it's applicability elsewhere.

So, I think that Caitlin and Katie were talking about something different from what Perkins was talking about and I think that I did not do a very good job of (a) noticing this or (b) making this clear.

It bears mentioning that Perkins is saying more than this, but I wanted to clarify the difference between talking about styles of gaining information and the purpose for which one gains information and that Perkins is interested in and values a particular purpose (namely, usefulness in life and not just in the classroom) over others.

Among other things, what have I learned from this? To slow down and force myself to reflect at the time instead of letting everything come to me in dribs and drabs over the next hours (and you know that I'll be wanting to come back and amend this).

Thoughts? Comments? Statements of Outrage? :-)

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