Fish is Fish

As a social studies teacher, I can trace my love of history back to two things: my grandfather and his amazing stories of the history of our family and my sophomore high school teacher who taught history as a series of stories versus a series of lectures punctuated with answering questions at the end of the chapter. After several detours, when I finally entered teaching I vowed to instill that love of history into my students loudly proclaiming "This is not your father's social studies class."

I am not sure that I was entirely successful with all students but what I was trying to instill in my students was that history is not about memorization but about reasoned thinking using what it is that we know and the assumptions that we make. I wanted my students to think like historians - not just regurgitate things back to me. And my hope was that they would carry these skills over into life - where it was so much more important to understand things than worry about a grade.

Years later, as I lament about how I could have been a much better teacher if I only knew then what I know now, I have been reading and thinking about adaptive expertise. This podcast will help to explain the notion (and the title of this post) a bit better.

Some important thoughts from the podcast:
1. Students are not blank slates - new understandings are constructed on a foundation of existing understandings and experiences. We use what we have already learned to shape new understandings - sometimes correctly and sometimes incorrectly.

2. Learning with understanding is critical!! It can guide our actions and requires a deep foundation of factual knowledge.

3. Students must become meta-cognitive - that is, we must teach them to monitor and take control of their own learning.

If we want our students to develop adaptive expertise in order to meet the as-yet-unknown demands of the future they will graduate into, won't we have to change the delivery methods of our classrooms? I am not just talking about integrating technology (although that is something I feel strongly about) but about reframing how we teach. Consider this example (complete source found here):

The topic for science class is the human body, in particular veins and arteries. Which class would you rather be in:
a) Stand and Deliver, Mnemonics, Recall
b) Challenge question : How do we design an artificial artery? (understanding/context)

Of course the answer appears obvious - but how many of us actually learned in that type of environment? How many of us can honestly say we teach on a regular basis in that type of environment?

If our students need to develop adaptive expertise - what about us? What about the teachers? How can we develop the adaptive expertise of teachers?

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