Online Journal Course PreSale Going on Now

OK, so my online course for math teachers who are interested in learning about using meta cognitive journals is all ready to go. The official start day is next Friday Dec. 1, but if you register during this week prior, you get $50 off the full registration fee.

Click here for information on registering: Registration with Coupon

Here’s a description of the course if you are interested:
This course is an on-demand course geared towards middle and high school mathematics teachers who want to learn about journal writing in math classes. There are four main course lessons that range from the reasoning of using journals to how to assess them. Interaction can occur between participants in this course via the discussion forums with as much or as little time committment as participants desire.

Please share with anyone you might think is interested in learning about using journals in math class. Thanks so much!

The “Wounded Healer” Archetype in the PBL Teacher

I have been doing a lot more work with teachers this year as I am not in the classroom.  I love watching people teach and talking to them about their teaching.  It is clearly a passion for so many people and the modeling of lifelong learning has been so inspirational for me and their students.

One issue that seems to arise in all PBL classrooms, no matter how progressive the teacher, is this feeling that they need to somehow, someday really just not allow the students to be frustrated.  Even those who buy into the whole PBL, student-centered, productive struggle pedagogy – deep inside they understand the belief from their own education, that math is black-and-white there needs to be some resolution that is acknolwedged and /or provided by the teacher.

I was talking to a friend about this dilemma a while ago (thanks @phiggiston!) and saying how interesting it is to me that a teacher’s belief from their past can, in the moment, while teaching, often override their beliefs in the current pedagogy.  In other words, if a teacher has not experienced independent learning as needed in PBL, it is extremely difficult to not give into the impulse to “save” the students from that feeling of struggle or unease.

Well, coincidentally, @phiggiston has a background in both religious work and in psychotherapy training, so the first the he says to me is, “it’s kind of like the patient-therapist relationship in a way.” And I’m thinking, my teaching is nothing like being a therapist, but of course, I listened intently.  I guess there is a Jungian theory that says that “sometimes a disease is the best training for a physician.”  In fact, Jung goes as far as to say that

“a good half of every treatment that probes at all deeply consists in the doctor examining himself, for only what he can put right in himself can he hope to put right in the patient.”

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So what does this mean for PBL teaching?  I had to think of this for a while and also read some Jung as I am not up on the psychological theories that connect to education.  I wasn’t quite sure that this “Wounded Healter” achetype paralleled the PBL teacher as much as I originally thought.  Here are some points:

  • Jung says that for the wounded healer the therapeutic encounter should be regarded as a dialectical process  It’s not just I’m going to the doctor and she’s going to tell me what wrong with me.  There needs to be some kind of dialogue in order for a real healing to happen.  In the classroom, I would argue that this is true about the teacher-student relationship.  Traditionally, it has been that not having dialogue would result in learning that was not as long-lasting, effective and/or connected to the students own ideas.  It is pretty clear that the PBL teacher needs to create the dilectical process in order for the best learning to happen.
  • Jung argues that the physician must help create a safe space where the “patient’s “inner healer” is made available to her unconsciously.” At the same time the physician, should let go of the way she is activiated by the same wounds. This idea is extremely relevant in the PBL classroom.  Why do we want to make students comfortable and relieve their anxiety about mathematical learning?  My take would be because we hate the way it makes us feel. Knowing that struggle is all to close in our memory can actually help us hand over the power to “heal themselves.”  If we can get over that feeling, it will become more of the norm in the classroom.
  • There are risks to this type of teaching – the risk of being vulnerable because you are looking at your own wounds, and also looking fragile to the patient (or student).  This is a very common concern of teachers who are beginning PBL teaching.

“The experience of being wounded does not make him/her less capable of taking care of the patient’s disease; on the contrary, it makes him/her a companion to the patient, no longer acting as his/her superior.”

In other words, it is worth the experience of creating that open relationship.  I go back to Hawkins’ theory of learning (I-thou-It) in which the relationships that exist form a triangle between teacher-student-material.

Hawkins (1974)

Hawkins (1974)

All of these relationships must be nurtured in order for the best learning environment to exist. (For more on this check out Carol Rodgers presentation slides here.)

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So does this mean if you did not have this type of experience learning math that you can’t learn to empower your own students in this way?  I think not.  When I ilook back on my own mathematical experiences many of them were extremely traditionally taught.  However, I think what you need to have inside you is both the belief that students are capable of owning and constructing their own knowledge and the ability to create a space that allows them to remain uncomfortable.  You have to be willing to let go of your own insecurities and anxieties about learning math and realize that the more you do that, the more the students will feel it as well.

I am currently working on a quasi-research project about this and when/how PBL teachers choose to intervene in class discussion.  If there is anyone who is interested in helping me out with this, I’d really appreciate it.

Looking at PBL Practice from a Thematic Perspective

So I’m here down in Florida – loving it (all sing-songy like Oprah would say).  I’ve been to so many talks that have been great learning experiences so far.  The weather is beautiful – I went for a very long walk and tried to think about what my talk was missing.  I did a bunch of edits and now I think I’m ready to post it.

Here’s the powerpoint of the talk:

Here’s the document that I handed out with some “threads” of themed topics:

Three Threads Document

Please contact me with any questions, comments or concerns – I love talking to people about PBL and my work.

Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes….Turn and Face the Strange.

Strange fascination, fascinating me
Changes are taking the pace I’m going through

Well, you know it’s been a long time since you wrote a blogpost when a perfect stranger sends you an email and says,  “I hope you’re just busy or I’m looking at an old blog you don’t update anymore or something and everything is ok.” It was a very nice email and I often forget when I get busy and wrapped up in what’s going on in my own life that there are actually people that read my blog and my tweets.  I need to keep up with my communications and I feel horrible.  So I have many apolgies to make.

But first let me tell a story that just happened a few weeks ago.  I was doing a 2-day workshop at a school that had made a decision to implement PBL in the first two years of their high school curriculum.  Because it was such a cross-curricular choice, almost everyone in the department was going to be required to teach a PBL course at some level or another.  We had spent a great deal of time talking about ways to facilitate discussion, make best use of class time, allow students the agency to work out understanding together, etc.  At the end of the second day, we were reflecting on what we were still concerned about for the coming fall.

Many teachers had very specific questions about how to put the theory into practice, but then one wonderful veteran teacher spoke up.  He talked about how he was very excited to try this type of teaching and what it really meant for the students’ learning in his class.  However, he then got very serious and sincere – he basically said, “What if I’m not good at it? I am mean I know I am very good at explaining mathematics to students, I’ve been doing it for 20 years this way.  I enjoy helping kids understand by telling them my understanding.  What happens if I am not good at holding back and letting them struggle?”

Of all the questions that teachers have asked me PD workshops, I thought this was the most honest and probably most unasked question that existed.  He was being extremely vulnerable and I think asking what everyone wanted to know.  We had a wonderful conversation about how he coached football for many years and how this type of teaching is very similar to coaching.  We talked about the satisfaction that you see on students’ faces when they are allowed to take ownership of the knowledge in the classroom and each others’ understanding.  It will be a difficult change in his pedagogy but it is worth a try. He’s probably one of the most brave teachers I have met in my work.

If you are one of these people that is interested in learning more about PBL and how it could enhance your classroom pedagogy, I am looking to pilot an online course this summer.  Click here to subscribe to a mailing to find out more and possibly enroll in the class.

So honestly, change is not that bad – it gives me anxiety and makes me worry.  But honestly, communicating and learning all about it is really the best.  I am moving out of the classroom for a year next year to see how that goes.  I’ll be doing Learning Experience Design for Online Learning and also Teacher Support for Math Teachers who are teaching with PBL.  Hopefully, I’ll also be planning the 2018 PBL Summit as well!

Turning to face the strange – and taking the pace I’m going through – please be forgiving of the changes in my life while I get back into blogging!