Students making up the questions

In our ever creative (we try!) growth process at SIMIODE we are working on thinking of our SIMIODE community as a "Community of Practice," in which we all draw energy and ideas, as well as practices, from each other and outside resources. SIMIODE's two Technical Directors, Mark Tortellott and Leigh Noble, and I as Director (Brian Winkel) had this conversation in preparatin for our upcoming Staff Meeting.

             Mark suggested this,

“I am doing my homework! We talked a lot about communities of practice at the Curriculum Library. I also was reading about Modeling and STEM success. I can’t remember if I sent this video to you guys before - if I have, my apologies. My friend Frank is the Principal of Westside Middle School part of Danbury Public Schools. Our wives are best friends from college. I’ve done some workshops with him in the past."

       Then Leigh chimed in,

“I like Mark’s points about Problem Finding. From the education side of things, it is much harder to "grade" a problem finding assignment. Unfortunately the educational system is very focused on assigning grades . . . it's not well designed to foster 'problem finding'.  Alas . . . what have we wrought!

“The first time I had a student say "I wish I could write the questions" I was so happy. . . I knew that student was really actively thinking. Unfortunately there was no outlet for that in the school curriculum.

“I've heard of some innovative schools in Maine that categorize students based on portfolios instead of letter/number grades. That would seem a better way to judge students if we wanted to promote Problem Finding as a skill. (But then we'd have to give individual student individual attention and things would not be uniform. . . which of course does not fit into the teach-test model that we have now.)”

       Brian recollected,

“In my college geometry class (in 1963 at Wagner College, Staten Island NY USA) Sydney Welton, the prof, said to the class, `Each of you give me four questions and I will use these to make up the final exam. I will write them up and give them to you a week before the exam so you will know what will be on the exam. I will select the five exam questions from your questions.’ So dutifully as the future teacher I knew I was to become, I wrote up three questions and pondered about a fourth. I considered something I was not sure of, but thought it was a good question even if I could not `do it’. Sure enough on the final exam there were 5 questions.  3 of them were mine! (A good sign for my future as a teacher, I thought!)  But one of the three that were mine was my fourth question which I could not do - before or on the exam! Later Professor Welton told me that everyone found that fourth question of mine to be a toughie, as he expected. Thus my teaching career was launched while I was writing the questions to ask of our class; i was `finding the problem' or `asking the questions.' Incidentally, Professor Welton, from Nova Scotia, had built himself a Chinese junk (ship) which he sailed around New York Harbor from his Staten Island base. He certainly was asking questions and challenging himself all the time.”

To paraphrase a current TV ad, "What questions are in your students' heads?" Find out by giving them a chance to ask out loud!


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