Colloquium Series: Further Impressions

The Colloquium Series here at the AIMS Center has been chugging along nicely this year. We have an average attendance of a little over 39 people, including online and face to face attendees. Our topics have ranged from philosophical to pedagogical, with a healthy dose of content and technology thrown in for flavor. The overall impressions we are getting from these events have been positive and encouraging.

I’d like to talk about two very recent talks that have left an impression on me for the potential impact they have on classroom practice.

Dr. Steve Pauls (FPU/AIMS) stimulated conversation around what he called, “Discrepant Events.” These are phenomena that would tend to defy the expectation or preconceptions of what might happen (no I am not referring to political science, but rather physical science was the context this day). Since childhood I have learned that when I turn a cup full of water over the liquid pours out. So when Steve had us turn over cups of water with a thin sheet of paper over the lip of the cup, I was glad he had provided a basin at each table for us to do the experiment over. When the paper adhered to the cup, and held in the large mass of water I, and everyone in the room were immediately put into a state of perturbation (our conception was being challenged by our perception). We were primed to question, “why, how, what” types of questions regarding this new reality. The fun and somewhat wet talk can be viewed here.

Lori Hamada (Executive Director at AIMS) came along a few weeks later and in her discussion of “Productive Struggle” demonstrated for us how a different representation of a simple concept such as a prime number sieve, could elicit deep thoughts and conjectures, even among knowledgeable experts and teachers. (Imagine what it could do with highly flexible minds of children!!)  We were intrigued, impassioned, and incited to make sense of the situation. If you are wondering what simple ideas can do when people are set to struggle with them I encourage you to view the archive here.

While these two talks were separate, delivered by two different people, and with different sets of intentions, I would like to posit that they were in some important ways very much about the same idea.

Learning, active, passionate, even angst-filled, taking place within the mind of the learner is coupled with feelings. One of the researchers we have spent some time reading here at the Center is Mary Helen Immordino-Yang. In her 2007 article (1), “We Feel Therefore We Learn”, she provides this nugget: “neurobiological evidence suggests that the aspects of cognition that we recruit most heavily in schools…are profoundly affected and subsumed within the process of emotion…” Watch the archive, see the participants, and observe their emotions, then listen to how they are thinking and talking about what they think.  You will see the linkage Dr. Immordino-Yang describes in action.

  1. Immordino-Yang, M.H., Damasio, A. (2007). “We feel therefore we learn: The relevance of affective and social neuroscience to education.” International Mind, Brain, and Education Society and Blackwell Publishing; vol. 1 number 1 p.3
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