Outreach / Misc
Several months ago, I wrote a blog post comparing the experience of a 16-year old learning how to drive to the experience of being a new teacher. In that post, I made the point that both are initially overwhelmed with the number of items that vie for their attention, whether it be a driver behind the wheel or a teacher in the classroom full of students. In either instance, you are trying to consciously process a tremendous amount of information from your surroundings at the same time. A new driver is consciously attending to the dashboard, side mirrors, the steering wheel, current speed, location of the car within a lane, and the cars in the surrounding vicinity. Meanwhile, a new teacher is consciously processing each student’s attention and mood, the current lesson, timing and transitions, and the materials needed for each student. Eventually, with experience, some of what they feel they need to consciously attend to at all times is regulated to their subconscious, allowing them to concentrate on other things – on the surrounding road or in the classroom each day.
I currently have a daughter who is six months into the process of learning how to drive. She has moved passed the initial stage and has regulated a significant number of the sensory inputs to her subconscious processing and her “sphere of noticing” has increased exponentially. Instead of worrying about the dials on the dashboard, she is now increasingly observing the road ahead and anticipating cross-traffic as well as other potential problems. Along with this expansion of her “sphere of influence” has come increased confidence in her ability to drive.
My work with teachers reflects this change as well. As a teacher gains experience in the classroom his or her attention, which is initially narrowly focused and strained, is eventually able to expand to delegating some of the “sensory load” to the subconscious part of the brain. This allows a significant increase in what a teacher overall can attend to in the classroom, which in turn increases their confidence in their ability significantly. Within education, as it is with driving, confidence is a key component of being successful and certainly comes with experience. Students are quick to pick up on a teacher’s lack of self-confidence and disengage from a topic. Conversely, students are more apt to become excited and be actively engaged if a teacher exudes confidence about a topic they are discussing. A teacher’s confidence is something that is very hard to fake but can certainly be developed over time with practice. There are many books in teacher education directed at increasing a teacher’s confidence in the classroom. Ironically there is no perfect formula for solving this problem. Every teacher is unique and in a different situation and educational environment. While there is no “magic bullet” to increasing confidence, there are things that can be done to increase a teacher’s confidence in the classroom. Over the next several blog posts I will talk about the idea of confidence and how it relates to both teachers and students. So, stay tuned. There is much to talk about. I would also encourage those in education who do read this blog to discuss your experiences in the classroom in the comment section below. Let us begin a dialog where we all can learn from each other.
When I started working for AIMS in 2014, we started the AIMS Scholars program. Now I know some of you reading this have received scholarship funds from the AIMS Foundation in the past (myself included), and therefore might wonder what I mean by “started.” During the 2014-2015 academic year, a public campaign was rolled out… Continue Reading
This past March I was fortunate enough to be able to attend the annual National Science Teacher Association (NSTA) conference in Atlanta, Georgia. While I was there I gave a talk related to my current work involving spatial ability and early childhood education, but more importantly, I was able to spend four days learning science… Continue Reading
Did you know that April is Mathematics and Statistics Awareness Month? If not, you’re not alone. Much to my surprise, when I polled my friends, some of whom are math teachers, they didn’t know either. But they definitely knew about Read Across America Day on March 2nd. Why is that? Why is it that everything… Continue Reading
In a previous blog post I talked about the importance of spatial learning in relationship to our interactions and perception of the surrounding world. Piaget outlined the importance of spatial perception in his 1948 book, The Child’s Conception of Space. In his book he discusses the importance of mental visualization to a child’s development as… Continue Reading
The members of the Research Division here at AIMS have been reading Humberto Maturana and Fracisco Varela’s book, The Tree of Knowledge: The Biological Roots of Human Understanding. These biologists describe how cognition and understanding emerge and are constructed out of single cellular organisms, and as they are coupled together in multi-cellular entities like humans.… Continue Reading
Spatial learning was defined by Harvard educator Howard Gardner in 1983 as one of nine individual “parts of the whole” in his theory of multiple intelligences. His ideas have somewhat fallen out of favor over the years mostly due to misinterpretation of his theory. Teachers have always tended to place each student in one of… Continue Reading
As this blog entry was being written, I was traveling to the California Math Council (CMC) North Conference at the Asilomar Conference Grounds near Monterey, CA. I have attended and/or presented at this conference many times over the years, and as I am putting the final touches on my presentation for this year, I am… Continue Reading
As an “aging” educator and a self-professed lifelong learner, I have spent a lot of my time thinking about both teaching and learning within the confinements of the educational classroom. Are the concepts of teaching and learning synonymous with each other? Or are they exclusive from one another? I have recently been part of several… Continue Reading
Recently, several of us at the AIMS Center have become involved in an online community that is growing out of the just-released book by Mitch Resnick Ph.D. Resnick is the Director of MIT Media Lab’s Lifelong Kindergarten, a group of researchers and learners studying how people learn. Some of the ideas we have been generating… Continue Reading