Thursday, April 28, 2011

metaphors for learning...

1. Children are empty vessels but of varying volumes. The teacher fills them up to their capacity. This is the classic approach.
2. The Biological and psychological urges model. Students are sets of biological and psychological urges and the teacher's job is to combat or control student urges through the use of conditioned response psychology. Doesn't this sound like fun? Both Skinner and Freud would like it.
3. Blank Slate metaphor: B.F. Skinner approach to teaching. The teacher, through a system of rewards (test scores and grades)gives direction to the student's growth. If the student's slate is already scribbled beyond comprehension and use, refer back to metaphor 2, or administer drugs.
4. Stages of development: Children are growing both in physical size and intellect. It is the teacher's job to recognize the stage of development and offer the appropriate lessons, reading, math, etc. timed on the basis of that recognition. This is the Piaget model.
5. The child as craftsman, a metaphor presented as an alternative by educational psychologist, David Henry Feldman and essentially ignored:
To see a child as a craftsman means to see him as a person who wants to be good at something. It also suggests that the child continually takes pride in accomplishment and has a sense of integrity about his work, regardless of the actual level of the work produced. The notion is somewhat akin to Robert White's competence motivation, except that White's notion implies more of a need to feel mastery over uncontrolled forces in the environment. The child as craftsman no doubt is moved by what White refers to as "effectance motivation," but the metaphor is intended to go beyond this to include a more direct link to specific fields of endeavor and to suggest why some activities are so much more compelling to a given child than others...

Perhaps the most important implication of the metaphor is to suggest that it may well be the main purpose of education to provide conditions under which each child will identify and find satisfaction through a chosen field or fields of work.
Readers interested in the child as craftsman metaphor might enjoy Daniel Pink's new book Drive: The surprising Truth about What Motivates US. You can read an excerpt here, in which Pink describes research by Harry Harlow and Edward Deci with rhesus monkeys in which intrinsic motivation is revealed. I would postulate that intrinsic motivation is what drives the craftsman. It may also explain the child at the back yard basketball hoop and those relentless free throws when no one is watching. It may explain why someone would dedicate his or her life to the arts or literature, while knowing that the pay may not be as great as that offered in banking or grand theft auto. For those who do not understand the value of intrinsic motivation, or its potential for application in schools, I recommend a healthy dose of the arts.

Yesterday in the Clear Spring School wood shop, we had creative day and some students in the first, second and third grades made small pieces of furniture for their own use, tables, benches and a ladder. Some made tops, another made a sign for the Clear Spring School open house on Saturday, 1 to 3 PM. In addition the students helped me to make new flag poles decorated with geometric solids as shown below for their patrol groups. The school camping trip will be next week.

Today I am working in my own shop and having meetings at school.

Make, fix and create.

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