This week’s readings focused on building and accessing student’s representations and thought structure in the sciences. Greeno and Hall’s article reiterated many of the points in Lehrer and Sampson’s discussions of modeling, focusing on the importance of bringing actual science practice into the classroom. Greeno and Hall hone in on the process of representation, which allows students to actively comprehend potentially abstract concepts and manipulate their representations flexibly to understand relationships on a more whole-system level, using representation more as a means to understanding than an end product itself. I especially enjoyed their discussion of the context of representation and the integral role of the individual student as interpreter of both historical and creative representations, suggesting the value of representation is not inherent but requires interaction.
Because the value of representation is dependent on student interpretation, the question becomes how do we as teachers understand the ways our students are interacting with the subject matter? In their article on Using Interviews, Russ and Sherin discuss the value of one-on-one conversations to “uncover more about how students make sense of the concepts in their own terms.” (20) Their approach is not meant to teach the student what is right or wrong, but rather to act as a probing interviewer, providing the teacher with thorough pre-assessment of their students prior knowledge in order to better craft lessons around what students do and do not know. Ginsburg’s chapter from Entering the Child’s Mind delves deeper into this theory, focusing on the value of a child’s constructions and representations regardless of their ‘accuracy’. Ginsburg provides strategies and advice for optimally uncovering student’s thought processes, highlighting a trusting, respectful relationship, careful preparation, and focused tasks paired with open questions focusing on process over answer, like “How did you solve that problem?” (121) By being a flexible and probing interviewer, Ginsburg argues that one can uncover Vygotsky’s “Zone of Proximal Development” to better help both the interviewer and the student understand the student’s process and potential.The readings this week raised interesting questions for me on the relative importance of individual versus communal relationships with learning. Greeno and Hall’s vision of representation revolves around individual interpretation of a representation, which would seemingly produce a class of students with potentially disparate or incorrect understandings of a system. The supplemental text by Wu and Puntambekar addresses this conundrum by suggesting combinations of representations across domains and categorization and with appropriate scaffolding by instructors. Even with the guidance of a teacher, by Greeno, Hall, and Ginsberg’s models each student will have a unique relationship with a representation so it would seem difficult to me to interview just a few students in a class as representative of the whole as Russ and Sherin suggest. Are there generalizations about children’s thought processes that can be gleaned from individual interviews? Outside of the potential constraints of application as suggested in the article, I can definitely see the value of interview style questions both before and during class, which would gauge comprehension as class progresses, allow students to work through the ‘how’ of a system, and potentially ‘seed’ more correct interpretations.