Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Week 4 Memo!

The Greeno and Hall article is about the importance of scientific and mathematic representations.  Using representations/forms as tools helps students understand what could be an abstract problem.  Greeno and Hall say that nonstandard forms are better for understanding while standard forms are better for representation.  They lament about teachers not having enough time to teach what a lot of technical representations are for and why they are useful and effective.  They also emphasize that students need to be able to know how to use multiple forms of representations in order to communicate their ideas with others as well as to achieve a deeper understanding of a topic.  Understanding the meaning of representations is vital, in that the representation has to be for something and not just of something.
The Russ and Sherin article discusses the importance of a teacher gauging where his/her students’ knowledge levels are on a given subject before attempting to teach it.  This is important because teaching that builds on students’ existing ideas is more likely to produce robust and meaningful learning.  In order to gauge this level, teachers should perform an interview of sorts either individually with students or in a small group of students.  The three key steps to this interview process are to contextualize the concept, probe student responses, and seed new ways of thinking.
In Ginsburg’s Chapter 4, he claims that the “clinical interview” is not something so easily done; one needs to practice in order to interview most effectively.  He gives these guidelines as a starting point: preparing for the interview, recording the interview, establishing and monitoring motivation, assessing thinking, establishing competence, and determining learning potential.  This is not a linear process to him, a lot of these steps are occurring at all times when you interact with a student in class, not just in the interview process.  Ginsburg goes into great detail for all of these steps in the clinical interview, and to summarize, one definitely needs to prepare, prepare, prepare, and prepare before one’s interview takes place.

Overall theme with these essays is that teachers need to always be asking why or how a student is thinking about an answer or got to an answer to any problem or concept.  We need to really think about how a student got to their answer before we dismiss it as wrong or inaccurate because the student’s thinking process is it’s own special thing.  While I enjoyed the briefness of Russ and Sherin’s article, the thoroughness of Ginsburg’s article will help me more as a novice teacher because Ginsburg has literally thought of everything I will need to consider or think about before I begin that process.  Working interviews into classroom time is a potential issue, but gauging the students’ knowledge is so essential that it should be worked into any teacher’s lesson plan.
Although I definitely see the merit in Greeno and Hall’s article, I thought most of it was very repetitive.  I feel like a teacher would need to explain how a form or representation works in order to get students to be able to read said form.  Also that it would be inherent that in order to represent change over time best, a pie chart would be a poor choice.  A data table could work to show change over time, but a student would notice that if those points were plotted on a graph, one could “see” that change a lot easier.  But perhaps that is not easy for some students to understand who are less scientifically or mathematically inclined.  I think I just realized why I might be considered a “visual learner.”


  1. I also liked the briefness of Russ and Sherin’s article, especially how it offered very clear and specific examples of each of the steps they discussed. I thought using a table in Figure 1 was a really good way to show their main points visually (I think I am more of a visual learner as well). I also found the depth of Ginsburg’s article to be helpful in really understanding the process of a clinical interview. I thought it gave great insight into the complexity and fluidity of the interview process and good suggestions as to how to be prepared and conduct a successful interview (especially as a novice). I think Greeno and Hall would comment that, “Teachers often feel that there is not enough time to teach students what representations are for and why the forms are useful and effective” (Pg. 362). I think they feel students often learn how to read certain representations correctly, but that they do it to get a high grade and not necessarily for effective understanding and communication. I think their main point is that, “Often a nonstandard representation serves these purposes better than a standard form, and students should learn how to generate representations flexibly for their use” (Pg. 362). I think they want students to be able to be flexible in constructing new representations for situations they have never seen before (maybe in other domains) so they can effectively communicate their understanding to others and visa versa.

  2. Kim I completely understand where you are coming from. As a visual learner, I oftentimes don’t get why people don’t understand which certain charts are much better than other forms of representation in certain situations. However, and you began to touch upon this, I think this strength is precisely what the authors we have been reading where talking about. Teachers must be explicit and clear when giving instruction but at the same time be aware that each individual student learns differently. By not fully understanding a student, where they are coming from, their strengths and weaknesses, a teacher cannot hope to supply his/her students with adequate support. Through these interviews, along with the modeling techniques previously discussed, teachers will be able to better determine not only the material the student understands but also what learning techniques are most effective.

  3. I agree with you that clinical interviews are essential tools to teachers in both their current instruction and in their planning for future instruction, and would advocate for more time in the classroom to interview for student thinking in this way. My thought is, though, that more time is probably not going to happen, so perhaps there is some way to conduct a sort of 'mini interview'? Like a 2 to 3 minute probe of a student's thinking when he comes to the desk to ask for help on a specific homework problem? I think that the full-bodied form of a clinical interview will be very difficult to implement to a significant extent, but that the heart of the clinical interview as a student-centered, deep-thinking formative assessment is certainly attainable on a daily basis.

  4. Jackson, I think that's a great idea. On Tuesday, I interviewed a few students about photosynthesis and cellular respiration, which are big and complicated processes, so the interviews took a while. If I had been limited in time, I could have narrowed my topic and really focused in on how students understood a specific part. This kind of mini interview could be more easily done between classes or at the start of lunch: whenever students have a few minutes to spare. Mini interviews could also be used to gauge the whole class's understanding of a particular topic rather than just a few students.


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