Tuesday, September 23, 2014

week four memo

In Russ & Sherin’s article, “Using Interviews to Explore Student Ideas in Science,” they discuss the use of interviews to gain information about student’s ideas and prior knowledge about a specific topic, what students truly understand and what they find difficult.  Sherin and Russ discuss three ways for carrying out these interview: contextualize the concept being discussed by making to relevant to the student’s life, probing the student’s response through generic or specific questions.  and providing new ways of thinking about concepts, either by questioning the student about similar situations or guiding the student to reach other information.  Finally, Russ and Sherin emphasize that teachers must be well prepared in both content knowledge and for the interview itself, preparing questions and anticipating student responses.
Greeno and Hall focus on the various types of representation within and outside the classroom.  The researchers deem this “practicing” of representation, involving construction and interpretation, to be an active collaboration between peers. This form of learning goes beyond the typical classroom assignments where students are given specific forms of representation as “ends” that they are required to complete.  Instead, Greeno and Hall emphasize that various representations of information must not be taught as ends but instead be used as means to an end to help foster understanding and communication among peers and teachers.  Additionally, they state that these representations can and should be constructed to cater towards the specific topic/subject.  Finally, they claim that students must fully interpret these physical notations in order for them to create meaning and become representations. 
In his article, Ginburg discusses general guidelines for creating successful interviews, where the student is viewed as an active and autonomous “constructor of knowledge” by the interviewer (117).  Ginsburg emphasizes the importance of fostering this “clinical sensitivity” within the interviews through the development of trust between participants, where the child feels safe and secure to share his/her mental processes with the interviewer (129).  He further defines this definition, stating that Ginsburg, throughout his article, continually shows how the aspects of these interviews come in contrast to the current standardized testing methods: while the interviews focus and cater towards the individual and their methods of understanding, standardized testing focuses on evaluation and knowing the correct answer, regardless of if the student actually understands it. 
·      students AND TEACHERS are active agents within the learning process, constantly constructing and interpreting information obtained through various means and representations.
·      Interviews are critical and successful ways for teachers to grasp student’s prior knowledge and understanding about concepts and ideas.
·      Specificity and contextualization is critical for student success.
·      Create a comfortable and safe environment for students

One thing that stood out to me in these readings was when Ginsburg stated that the interviewer must be actively engaged in the process.  While this seems like common sense, stating it explicitly seemed to hit home for me.  We often have discussed how students must be active agents, but oftentimes neglect the teacher.  However, as we have read about interviewing students and have discussed modeling, teachers must also be learning, building upon and revising their own concepts as they participate in the teaching process.  In a sense, the label of “teacher” disappears and they become partners in the learning process, not completely separate from the actions of a student.  Russ and Sherin also incorporate this active nature through their emphasis on probing students and their understanding.  The author stated that simply saying that ice in water floats because it is less dense is not enough to determine that a student actually knows what he/she is talking about.  This directly related to the case study we watched, where the student in the green shirt stated that the farther you stretch the lizard, the farther it will go and the teacher took that explanation as complete understanding between the concept of kinetic and potential energy.  The teacher should have asked questions like Can you expand upon this relationship? How is stretching the lizard related to kinetic and or potential energy?  When does the lizard have potential and/or kinetic energy?   
While I do deem interviews to be critical for teachers to gain a sense of where students are coming from, researchers did state that these conversations do occur outside the teaching block, raising slight practical questions.  As Ginsburg stated, teachers are often pressed for time to complete the curriculum material within the class.   When placed outside the classroom instruction time, how available are the students and how often/how long are these interviews?  There are limited availabilities within the school day (lunch, study hall), so is it fair to take away time from the student?  Russ and Sherin talked about group interviews, however how practical would this be if students have all different schedules?


  1. I think you brought up a great point connecting the article to the video case regarding the importance of explanation. When I first watched the case study video when a student said something like, “the more potential energy it has, the more kinetic energy it has”, I thought that made sense. I could see the connection between the more stretched the lizard is, the more potential energy it has and when the lizard is then flung, the potential energy is turned into kinetic energy. So more potential energy would mean more kinetic energy when flung. However, after we discussed this I realized how crazy it would be to just assume the student made that connection. There could be a completely different understanding by the student of what he or she meant, without asking for a more detailed explanation or probing the response with more questions; I couldn’t possible gauge the students true level of understanding. I think you also bring up good points about some of the challenges to the interview process of students, especially with limited availability of students outside of class and differences in schedules. However, Russ and Sherin offer another option, “You may choose to do this during students’ lunch or free period, or before and after school. You may also be able to interview some students during class while others are working on an independent activity” (Pg. 22). I suppose conducting a casual interview during class can be just as effective. A teacher can even take the time they would use do a different less engaging assessment (like a scantron pre-test) and instead use that time to conduct the interviews during class. The information from the interviews could make all the difference in an effective lesson plan for the unit.

  2. I agree with the theme you brought up on how teachers are also a highly active piece in science education. In other courses, we have been reading different philosophies of how present a teacher should be in the classroom and student learning. The authors we read this week are saying that teachers can be active in the classroom. We can help students more in the classroom by interviewing them, creating a more comfortable atmosphere in the classroom, and helping them understand their own thinking and construction of ideas. This also brings up the idea of scaffolding, and how much is to much or too little when creating a modeling or argumentation lesson. How much should a teacher help a student as he or she thinks and constructs?


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