the words a science teacher learns to loath. never were these words uttered by a student who is interested in practical science. i have done lab based practical science. i have sat at university in front of two Siamese fighting fish and counted how many times each one turns side on in x seconds. i have tried in vain to dissect a squid and draw and label a high quality anatomical diagram and answer a series of seemingly impossible undergraduate questions surrounded by people who did the pre-reading. what i am saying is that genuine practical science learning is difficult, exacting, cognitively very demanding to the point of total overload and stressful to boot. and after that scientific research is difficult, exacting, and often demoralising and cheerless. in a former life i have worked along side labrats who are crushed by pressure, others who miserable and near-suicidal. an utterly joyless environment
so, "are we doing a practical today?" translated to "do get the opportunity to fuck around in science today?" i have moved from saying "No." to "absolutely we are not." to "that is an inappropriate question". science is not an outlet for the pent up tension of hard work in maths lessons, english lessons. i get frustrated when i see my co-workers doing "practical lessons" and i am thinking - "yeah, great, but what are they actually learning?" i think "practicals" do something of a disservice to my specialism, and yet, there is a core there, something that should be preseved. how? i do not know.
i do not know what the solution is, thoughts welcome.
edit: i have edited this post to correct that the Siamese fighting fish will turn side on, not face on when confronted with another male through a glass screen, this is an issue rectified by re-reading my answer and thinking about the underlying biological science of intraspecies male competition. the Siamese fighting fish is of course attempting to intimidate a rival male by appearing as large as possible, hence it will turn side on. Io, if you wish to change your upvote to a down vote i will consider this justified
Edited by tears ()
this is a good thread and i look forward to more, it has made me reflect upon my own schooling at a sub standard state comp
big up the bunsen burner massive, shout out to the dissection crew
this is a good thread and i look forward to more, it has made me reflect upon my own schooling at a sub standard state comp
for context: i'm still not sure if my experience really translates to the UK. the atmosphere in that video was pretty alien to me. my schooling seems to have been less formal (certainly no uniforms) but with generally more well-behaved schoolmates, and your descriptions make me think my schooling was in general much less tightly structured. i went to canadian catholic schools and secular schools, both publicly funded, in very conservative (and a little behind-the-times) regions, 9 or 10 different ones all together, due to a bit of an unstable childhood. after i hit 13 due to various family dramas i was completely undisciplined and skipped classes constantly, got in fights, got multiple suspensions etc, though this varied a lot from school to school (i tried new things sometimes). i also usually had the highest grades in my classes, or at least probably top 3, and the combination thereof made a good chunk of teachers hate me and a large section of the other students really resent me too. but hey i survived. (i dropped out at 17 but went back after a little less than a year to wrap things up.)
now that i've met people from other countries, classes, etc, i think the conservative culture of the areas i went to school had a major major impact on the experience. but maybe all schools are kind of shit, too.
anyway. here is what i remember of practical work in high school.
- i still vividly remember what titration is and how to do it and waiting for some pink solution (manganese something?) to turn purple with the right number of drops. iirc this required a lot of specialized equipment and time. that school had what was to me a large and impressive chemistry lab and it stuck with me. but i have to admit that probably what stuck with me more at that school was that the chemistry teacher was someone who had an actual honest to god PhD in chemistry. that was probably the best school i was at, and the difference it made to me is that she could answer hard questions and you could tell that she knew what she was talking about without having to look it up. this was almost always the critical part for me rather than the practical labs or the demos, or at least that's what my memory leads me to believe. i do remember occasionally being forced to watch videos about chemistry (that may have been with another teacher) and i found nothing more demoralizing than being fobbed off on a tv. i don't think i remember anything a video was supposed to teach me.
- i always preferred physics to the other sciences because it felt like it actually had some connection to reality (who cares what x is? come on math) but nowhere i went to school had any practical physics lab that didn't seem like a joke. sometimes we would get out the inclined plane and time the ball rolling down the ramp or whatever but the concepts in HS physics were always so basic that it never seemed to be very exciting. yes it took 3.4 seconds just like the math would predict, ok. (maybe i wouldn't make a good physicist.) we would do electrical labs sometimes but since most of that involves hooking up a meter and staring at the numbers that pop up on a display, there is still a certain amount of disconnectedness from the physical phenomena. you're still just moving numbers around. i do not remember any particular physics labs.
- i do remember the first time i was assigned what felt like a hefty amount of writing in a science class. it was some sort of combined science class (some bio + chem + phys), i think 9th grade, with a teacher who was notoriously tough (but well-liked). we had to form groups of ~3 and the end product had some double-digit number of pages, typed. i remember clearly thinking like ah shit this is the big time now. i have no easy outs. i formed a group with friends i actually knew were smart and we had to get together outside of school and put actual work in. the topic was i think the structure of a plant cell and the metabolic processes that go on in inside of it, and then i think we also had to present the paper. iirc the groups all had slightly different topics. i mention it because it wasn't lab work, we didn't actually go look at plant cells, but it felt like "practical work" in that we had to do the actual practice of research and choosing what to write and how to structure it and it turns out it's much more useful to know how to do that, and i did the same thing in university various times, and that felt like we were getting treated like intelligent adults having to do something "real", even if it was still just schoolwork. i don't know if i'm typical, but being asked to do something that is actually a challenge (not a puzzle! not solving for x! not a word search or whatever! a real challenge) is what actually gets me to take something seriously. i'm still like that now.
- i did not take any just-biology classes. i remember the day the bio kids had to dissect pigs and it still seems cruel and unusual now. the impression i got from all of the kids in bio is that they were singlemindedly thinking of it as pre-med and all of the work revolved around memorizing endless lists of Terms. identifying what stuff is officially called seems to be the basis of all biology. great stuff.
- (not exactly on topic but one time in university i got to look through the observatory's giant 30 foot (or whatever) telescope at the mountains on the moon, i could make out more details than i could ever articulate in words. that was cool as shit!)
i have absolutely no basis for my opinions besides lived experience but i think you are on to something about discipline, and i also think that the most important aspect of learning about something is being able to have a conversation about it (or some pedagogical facsimile thereof) in a way that makes you believe you are talking about a real actual thing that exists and has edges and textures and known aspects and unknown aspects and it's Actually In The World. i think talking can do that.
good luck out there.
for context: i'm still not sure if my experience really translates to the UK. the atmosphere in that video was pretty alien to me.
bear in mind there is considerable reporting bias with these sorts of videos. many uk schools have absolute bans on mobile phones - which usually result in loss for a period of time e.g. my school is 1 week, and the students who are thinking "it is a good idea to record myself through the day and post it in an open youtube video are lacking some degree of understanding of high risk low reward behaviour
however yes, welcome to low tier education in england
note the now ubiquitous cover teacher in a sccience subject and the French lesson seemingly delivered by someone who does not know french
Example 3: the hard constructivist method ("give them the freedom to figure it out for themselves")
"Here you are children, see if you can work out what you do with this and what they are for. i want to see you thinking like a scientist" - points to microscopes and glass slides
I went thru montessori and this is basically nothing to do with what happens in that kind of education. Its based almost entirely on direct instruction and repetition
editing this in for context: i dropped out of college years ago due to health problems. i'm thinking of returning relatively soon, even if only on a part time basis. if i were to do so, though, i would first have to brush up on my math, re-learning everything up until calculus. since i learned the material once, years ago, i don't find it to be daunting in the sense that it seems beyond my intellectual capacities. rather, it seems daunting because it seems like a lot of work, and the whole time i'm going over remedial material i keep beating myself up, thinking "you should already know or remember this." that kind of attitude tends to drain the fun out of learning, but i find it hard to shake
cheers and thanks for the interesting thread
Edited by radical_dave ()
students whisper my name when they see me coming
it's Tears! amscray!
this is something i work very hard to do - using the latest cOgNiTiVe ScIeNcE - habits reduce cognitive load and so free up working memory to attend to new things. thus the more things that can be shifted to habitual automaticity the more anyone can attend to novel things. for instance take this high-load GCSE question:
the base of a pillar of wood has a radius of 20cm. This exerts a pressure of 7.3x10^3kPa on the ground. Calculate the mass of the pillar.
Lets look at what the student has to do:
1. Recall the pressure equation P = F/A
2. Convert 20cm to m.
3. Recall the area of a circle: A = πr^2
4. Apply this equation to calculate the area of contact of the pillar.
5. Notice and understand how to convert and then convert 7.3x10^3kPa to Pa
6. Understand the concept of standard form.
7. Know how to use standard form on their calculator including what buttons specifically to press.
8. Substitute into P = F/A
9. Rearrange to PA = F
11. Append correct units: Newtons
12. Recall W = mg
13. Recall the value of g on the surface of the Earth: 9.8N/kg
14. Substitute and rearange.
15. Calculate m.
16. Apply correct units: kg.
now that may be easy for you or i (notice please subtle neg of my readers) but the reason for this is that almost all of that is automatic recall: the equations, the conversions, the units, simple algebraic rearranging. Even if we didn't know one or two things, someone could teach us them and we could apply prior knowledge.
But that automaticity has to be built, it comes from memorisation which comes from practice. imagine needing to: look up your equations on a table, consult a conversions table, read what pressure is, struggle to remember how to do standard form on a calculator etc etc. That is why I am very keen on modelling calculations with consistency:
Over and over until you can do most of it without thinking. And to aid that, I do the same, when I calculate I do it exactly like that, no matter how tedious it might seem I always do it the same - consistency. because thats what a good role model does. So thats why when students ask me do they need to show their workings I always say that it makes things easier in the long run and if you dont you will be writing out your workings at break.
Ended up accidentally socializing with a group of teachers last night and had to restrain myself from saying "I post on a message board for mentally ill communists and let me tell you why you're bad at your jobs and your students are fucked"
It was making me so crazy. The one lady talking about how her kids won't just be calm and do their worksheets in math class. Easily as bad as the one time I had to hang out with cops socially.
Easily as bad as the one time I had to hang out with cops socially.
fucked up but true
when I calculate I do it exactly like that, no matter how tedious it might seem I always do it the same - consistency. because thats what a good role model does.
iyo is this "a good role model for people of a variety of learning styles and capabilities and levels of knowledge" or are you making a big claim about role models period? or maybe this is about how children recognize role models (i.e. specifically "someone i can and should emulate and understand how to emulate")?
seems like a big part of what you're saying but you just kind of snuck it in at the end.
division is probably the first time a student is introduced to something that isn't just a symbol corresponding to a concrete object or process.
what does this mean?
Addition is just moving things around. To add 3 and 4 you move those dots together and you get . : : : = 7. Multiplication is analogous with the familiar rectangular shape. Maybe negative numbers require elementary skills in imagination but you still have something tangible being referred to.
Division is different because it refers to something that can only be represented in reference to a particular medium that adds extra info. E.g. if you have a mixture of 2 cups flour and 1 cup sugar, a student would be mistaken to think that the meaning of 1/3rd sugar and 2/3rds flour is exactly 2 cups flour and 1 cup sugar. The true meaning refers to the mixture itself abstracted from any particular quantity, and these fractions are just as true if it was 2 tsp flour and 1 tsp sugar or 6 cups flour and 3 cups sugar.
The process of division is correctly understood as producing the mixture as a substance but not in any quantity. It doesn't have a quantity unlike anything else the student is taught in math class before this. The reason this happens is because a fraction is actually an equivalence class of all equivalent ratios.
In physics class this happens constantly. For example mass is easy to teach, the mass of a construction of lego pieces is increased or decreased by adding or removing lego bricks to it. The same with volume. But density = mass / volume is abstract and requires more than memorization on the part of the student.
today i had one of the most depressing yet heartening experiences of my teaching career. a colleage asked me to watch a student in detention for not doing their homework while they went to do some printing. the student was sat in front of the other teacher's laptop doing an online quiz. the question was what is the name of the group of organisms with backbones. the student is 11 years old. he had no fuckin idea. it was clear this student had a reading age or around 8-9. it felt like cruel and unusual punishment. so i stepped in.
"read that sentence for me."
"I will tell you the answer but you have to use it in a sentence for me."
"Now, say vertebrate."
"No, like this, 'vertebrate'"
"Now, lets use that in a sentence. Listen to what I say. Humans have a backbone so they are vertebrates."
"Lets try again, how about you use a dog as an example."
"Good, now say it again for me."
"Good, now type it in. lets spell it together."
The next section, i shit you not presented 5 images and asked which one was the crustacean.
"Ok, so lets go through each of these. Which ones do you recognise?"
"Good, a cockroach - do you know what group that would be in?"
"No, lets count the legs, how many does it have."
"Good, 6. No look at that the spider, how many legs does it have."
"So insects have 6 legs. Which of these is an insect?"
"Good...Now lets look at what a crustacean is"
unfortunately for the child i then had to leave to go teach refraction to kids who can't read good
like... don't ask questions knowledge based questions you haven't taught the answers to ffs
theories of education as applied in england divide quite neatly into three main categories, which, as a political compass addled moron i will map to these ineffective but useful groups for my own sanity. bear in mind that "left" and "right" are viewed through the overton window of "england" so you know what that means ^_^
the dominant paradigm is permissive liberalism, and of course we must remember that liberalism is not in any way "good"- we are within england of all hellish places after all. and imo liberalism in education is 100% damaging: i have used the expression child abuse masquerading as education in the past and i stand by it. let me just say a little bit more about what this embodies because we must separate the tangled mess of the veneer of goodness in this from the substance of neglect.
so the progressive liberalism - the rosseau'an belief in the innate goodness of the child, "let them enjoy themselves now while they're young, because the world is hell", the misplaced guilt manifesting itself in the dominant paradigm: children misbehave because your lessons are not engaging enough, children learn best in group work, knowledge is racist, group work is most effective, let the child construct its own knowledge (misplaced constructivism) transferable skills, soft skills, discipline is racist/fascist. "What right do I have to tell a child what to do?", low expectations for the poor because it would be unfair to demand the same of them as the white children, the middle class children, belief that school has no moral function, "Paul Dix when the adults change everything changes", guilt over being in a position of authority, "guide on the side" learning facilitator, children learn best when they discover things for themselves and so on. The list goes on. I have linked this to a pernicious destruction: it's crack to the ghettos level. I will say again: these mehods result in children learning very little, they result in bullying, chaos and disorder, depression and terrible outlooks for life. This dewey/rousseau/paul dix/bastardised vygotsky push really met its pinnacle in the labour years in the UK. it's everywhere and we all know that the expectations of children are low across education - exams are a piece of piss to be honest and yet c50% of children can't even pass their basic maths+english competencies. It is championed across the UK by the main teacher unions, those running teacher training courses at universities, and good 'ol progressive liberals everywhere :( fml.
The counter-current to this is the authoritarian right. I know right. The only counter-current to this concerted effort to spend £100 000 per child making them into idiots is run by some of the most reactionary people in the country. the sort of people who intersperse their tweets on the fantastic academic successes of their schools (true) with VoC retweets and preface their books with quotations form jordan peterson. i will re-iterate: these schools get fantastic results. Their children learn. these are teachers and school leaders who believe that liberal progressive education is a crock of shit (it is), they believe in adult authority, discipline, high expectations, drill, routines, the necessarily of conformity, rigorous levels of work, relentless pace, traditional direct instruction, inflexible rules regarding attention, participation and levels of work, demands of high levels of attainment. this counter-current coalesces around the figure off Katherine birblesingh, darling of the traditionalist, autarkic, reactionary wing of conservative party; and other figures such as Joe Kirby, the echo chamber blog (https://educationechochamber.wordpress.com/about/) and so on. birblesingh likes michael gove, stoicism and marcus aurelius, her approach to education is "the world is awful and there is no changing it so we will push you harder than you have ever been pushed to survive in this place", she also likes to talk about "woke".
finally there is the permissive right - the liberal right, the private school sector where children already come with a huge degree of cultural capital and rich life experience and so the authoritarian nature is relaxed with the undertanding that these children already understand these things. these children are seeped in tradition, in-language and status, they implicitly understand the boundaries of the society they exist in. They engage in superstructures of liberal discussions but their base is imperialist. Levels of attainment range from top of the leader boards to middle of the road depending on who the school is marketed to.
and yet i live in something entirely missing from education in england, the authoritative left - political compass time its like the entire top left section is missing. there is no hope for a better future: "let them have fun while they can" or "push them to their limits because the the world is cruel". there is 0 traction on any other front here because the ostensible "leftists" are liberals who reject authority and are worked up about private schools rather than putting their own house in order and the ones who believe in authority are hopped up on hitler. but then what do you expect. Ceterum censeo Britanniam esse delendam.
"There was a feeling of early spring" was a term used in a book i read about education during the hundred flowers period, well right now there is a feeling of looming winter. or perhaps in these humpty-dumpty times i should say hellish summer. i take solace in the fact that my students love me, i walk around the school and students say hello to me, my classes are purposeful and calm, my students are learning.
Edited by tears ()
every fucking day to my co workers and everyone else in the weeds: whats that, you've encountered a problem? well pick up a fucking book and read some theory ya clowns
some motherfuckers would rather embrace clown life than follow the advice of the great helmsman, fucked up but true
jfc i am such a nerd
The ideal fascist schoolteacher would never resort to generic behaviour management strategies or to restricting actions through explicit rules. His pupils, like loyal citizens in a fascist state, accept his authority because he is the leader and they are his followers.
giovani gentile, the reform of education (1922) posted:
The real teacher, the naturally gifted teacher, never bothers about these puzzling questions of pedagogical discipline. He teaches with such devotion; he is so close spiritually to his pupils, so sympathetic with their views; his work is so serious, so sincere, so eager, so full of life, that he is never compelled to face a recalcitrant, rebellious personality that could only be reduced by resorting to the peculiar means of discipline… Concretely, the discipline which good teachers enforce in the classroom is the natural behaviour of the spirit which adheres to itself in the seriousness and inwardness of its own work. Discipline, authority, and respect for authority are absent whenever it is impossible to establish that unique superior personality, in which the spiritual life of the pupils and of the teachers are together fused and united. Whenever the students fail to find their ideal in the teacher; when they are disappointed by his aspect, his gaze, his words, in the complex concreteness of his spiritual personality, which does not rise to the ideal which at every moment is present in their expectations, then the order of discipline is lacking. But when this actual unity obtains—this unity which is the task of the teacher, and the aim of all education—then discipline, authority, and respect are present as never failing elements.
The fascist teacher, like many educators today, dismisses rules and routines in favour of relationships. The fascist teacher is a “superior personality” not a strategic manager of behaviour. In terms of the figures in recent controversies, the fascist teacher would identify more with Phil Beadle than Doug Lemov. And while I don’t actually think that is an argument that should be used to determine who is right, it is an argument as to why the former individual should not be claiming there are fascist tendencies in the ideas of the latter.
my admittedly rough sense is that Vygotsky's ideas are much more complex, but require a thorough grounding in dialectical materialism that virtually no one in the West has
this is in conjunction with the fact that the Soviet education system was extremely disciplined and rigorous. the latest fad among NYC's elite is to have their children attend "Russian math" classes after school as a way to supplement America's piss poor math education, even among the outrageously expensive private schools. the dirty secret is that it's really not "Russian" math, it's Soviet math
I appreciate your posts on this, I am not an educator just a parent but your ideas resonate with my experiences so far!
the issue with this being "bastardised" is when it intersects with a refusal to acknowledge that this puts an almost moral imperative on the teacher to instruct core knowledge: the re-rising vogue of direct instruction. As bastardised this theory has actually resulted in the 1990s and 2000s proliferation of doleing out individualised differentiated worksheets and letting the kids get on with their learning, because you see the zone of proximal development is in a different position for each child, so obviously instead of raising the whole tide you "differentiate" at an individual level. directly teaching the class for a mandated maximum of 10 minutes per hour, then handing out a "support sheet" to some students is, i am pretty sure, not what vygotsky was all all about.
seeing this sort of thing is why i am 100% in favor of setting, streaming etc, rather than absurdly "differentiated" lessons. with the caveat that the most experienced teachers must be the ones to teach the lowest ability children.
i am sure as i read more educational psychology i will refine or even change my current views.
growing collection of plants
domain specific literacy is a thing kusmeh
CO2 levels in my classroom are >2000ppm, the windows don't open and its 35 degrees in here with the air approaching 100% humidity due to all the sweat - the perfect conditions for my ever
growing collection of plants
what have you got growing on in there tears