Friday, August 6, 2010

“Wild” About David Perkins!

With David Perkins

I came into the Project Zero Classrooms (PZC) Institute with the question – How will I be able to apply the Multiple Intelligences Theory in my classroom? This question may not have been directly answered (my Mini Class was not able to clearly address this) but it did not matter to me anymore because I discovered David Perkins. Not that I’m NOT amazed with Howard Gardner, I will still write about him in my future blogs. But David Perkins… what can I say? I’m a big fan.

My first encounter with David Perkins was during the Plenary Session when he talked about “The Tame and the Wild.” I have never seen anybody refer to teaching and learning as something that is “tame” or “wild.” Think of this contrast in terms of your lesson and your teaching strategy. Most of the topics we teach in class are considered tame – the quadratic formula, the 52 States, how to diagram a sentence, the four causes of the industrial revolution, etc. These topics are deemed tame because most students may not take interest in them, they are not “wild” about them. As David Perkins said – “Good tame illuminates the wild. And bad tame eliminates the wild.” Just imagine having a Wild-o-meter. Where will your lesson fall into that meter? Will it be so boringly tame? Or will it be confusingly wild? What we need to do is to order and organize the learning process to probably strike a balance to make students respond to learning and gain understanding of lessons being taught.

So what tames the wild? If you look at your curriculum or framework, most of the concepts may seem wild or difficult to teach, it will make you ask yourself “How can I teach this so my students can understand?” If you are teaching something “wild” what is needed is to build accessibility. First is teach the elements of things. Buildup the component skills of the lesson but not get caught up with “elementitis” where we just all get stuck with teaching the content without assessing student understanding. Second, teach about things, such as definitions and rules. Then again, be careful not contracting “aboutitis” and make students focus on memorizing information which they will eventually forget. And finally, teach the “Junior versions” of the lesson, sort of like simplifying the lesson for easier understanding and then build on that as a base for deeper understanding.

Now, what wilds the tame? Think about those concepts that seem to be boring to teach. How can students be “wild” about it to the point of talking about it, thinking about it, doing something about it? First, use The Skating Principle – “Learning for understanding is more like learning to skate than learning about skating.” Teach students to think authentically and to engage in work deeply. And another one is The Scaling Principle. Look at ideas on a wider scope. Ask student to compare or interpret more than just learning about “one official version.” Students want to see the relevance of the lesson and what they can generate from it.

The Tame and the Wild – what a way of analyzing teaching and student understanding! It is quite amazing how he actually used the metaphor in talking about teaching, learning and understanding. Now I always bring my “Wild-o-meter” with me as I plan my lessons and activities. I also find myself using this contrast in other aspects of my life. This why I’m wild about David Perkins! I am changed. Brazil?!?!?

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