Empowering Learners:
A Handbook for the Theory and Practice of
Extra-Classroom Teaching

By Mary Beth Curtiss, Elena Darling-Hammond, Heather Davis, Susanna Farahat, Rachel Francois, Christina Gubitosa, Allison Jones, Rebecca Kaufman, Alice Lesnick, Xuan-Shi Lim, Samantha Martinez, Caitlin O’Keefe, Emily Schneider-Krzys, Amie Claire Raymond, Sky Stegall, Becky Strattan


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We dedicate this book to our students with gratitude for all they teach us.

Annotated Bibliography

This is a listing of relevant sources for the continued study of extra-classroom teaching, with introductory notes on the texts’ significance written by the handbook authors who were students in Education 225 in the Spring of 2005. Clicking on a link in the Table of Sources will take you directly to commentary about that particular book or essay. Links within the commentary are to the essays themselves, when available.

Table of Sources

Science Teaching Reconsidered: A Handbook (National Research Council)
How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience and School (Bransford, Brown, and Cocking, (eds.))
Ethnographic Eyes: A Teacher’s Guide to Classroom Observation (Frank)
Emergent Pedagogy: Learning to Enjoy the Uncontrollable – and Make it Productive (Blank, Cassidy, Dalke, and Grobstein)
The Achievement (K)not: Whiteness and "Black Underachievement" (Powell)
Making the Most of College (Light)
From Teaching to Mentoring (Herman and Mandell)
Getting It Less Wrong: Some Thoughts on Introductory Science Teaching… (Grobstein)
The Role of Metacognition in Learning Chemistry (Rickey and Stacy)
Striving for Education Rigor: Acceptance of Masculine Privilege (Shank)
Engaging Minds: Learning and Teaching in a Complex World (Davis)
Writing and the Ecology of Learning (Connolly)
Assessment Strategies for Self-Directed Learners (Costa and Kallick)
Collaborative Learning: Higher Education Interdependence and Authority of Knowledge (Bruffee)
Disciplined Approaches (Gardner)
Trilingualism (Baker)
Seeing and Feeling Seen: The Central Roles of Description and Descriptive Feedback in Reflective Practice (Rodgers)

National Research Council. (1997). Science Teaching Reconsidered: A Handbook. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.

1st Reader Response) Overall, I found Chapter 3 of Science Teaching Reconsidered to be particularly useful for those involved in extra-classroom teaching. Specifically, I thought that the text’s discussion about “active learning” and what type of approaches seem best able to achieve active learning was very valuable. A lot of the chapter and many of its sidebars emphasized the effectiveness of student communication- especially verbal- of important concepts and knowledge to other individuals. The text repeatedly suggests that students should be made to explain or articulate, or debate or “think aloud” to themselves, their peers or the teacher in order to enhance learning.

Having students articulate and especially verbalize key concepts is an effective tool for those involved in extra-classroom teaching for several reasons. As the text points out, it puts students in a situation where they must become cognizant of their own thinking process and gives them a chance to figure out questions on their own. Also it provides both the student and the teacher with opportunities to assess the student’s comprehension of a key concept- realizing where the strong points are, where the weak points are, where the gaps are and if misconceptions exist that are impeding learning. Moreover, if a student can put important concepts into his “own words” it most likely signals that the student has a decent familiarity and grasp of the material. In short, such a learning approach facilitates the creation of those great “a-ha!” moments; it gives students a chance to be active learners. Finally, it’s a very practical approach that’s possibly even better suited to extra-classroom settings than regular classroom settings. Since the text criticized the approach for possibly being too time-consuming in very large classrooms, this approach might be more appropriate for extra-classroom teaching which typically doesn’t have large numbers of students. Plus, even with larger classrooms, the text gives several examples of (what I see as) fairly easy ways to incorporate this “articulation approach” into those types of settings.

2nd Reader Response) In Part 2 Chapter 3 of the National Research Council’s book, we are provided with a lengthy discussion on Learning and Transfer. Transfer is defined as “the ability to extend what has been learned in one context to new contexts. (e.g.; Byrnes, 1996:74) The authors write in detail of active and passive approaches to transfer and, transfer and metacognition. This serves the pre-service teacher as an enrichment to other work by educational theorists such as John Dewey. In fact, what this section missed was a correlation or comparison with Dewey’s Education and Experience.

Dewey recognized scientific method as “in the development of the possibilities of growing, expanding experience.” (pg. 89, Experience and Education.) Scientists should continue to research how we learn in collaboration with social scientists, educators, and others to improve the learning experience for all students. Perhaps the authors of this book did not include the voices of educational theorists because their ideas continue to be transformed?

For scientist, the scientific method provides outcomes that can be recorded and replicated thereby reinforcing a particular law or hypothesis as true. This book holds true to that idea. I would have liked to see some transferring of knowledge from other disciplines so that the reader is left with the impression that these ideas about how people learn is not a new phenomenon, but one that scientists are now putting more effort to concretize and validate via hard science.

3rd Reader Response) Chapter 3 titled ‘Linking Teaching with Learning’ from the handbook entitled “Science Teaching Reconsidered” mainly discusses active learning and teaching and scientific research as a model of learning and teaching. In the chapter, there were several components I found valuable. The first was the story with Professor Eric Mazur, who teaches an Introduction to Physics class at Harvard University. I appreciated how this professor helped students to question and truly understand the material through several active approaches to learning. Additionally, I became aware that teachers who have been teaching for many years sometimes have a tendency to not reevaluate and change the manner which they teacher. This story clearly depicted how a teacher can incorporate active learning and teaching into even a large lecture class. The second component to this chapter I appreciated was the explanation of the importance of why teaching must be taught beyond a set of truths. The chapter explained, “we run the risk of subverting out students’ attempts to grapple with problems and make new experiences meaningful. We deny them the opportunity to engage in the scientific process (23).” I found this explanation important in that the author supported his ideas with clear reasons, instead of simply stating opinions with no support for them.

4th Reader Response) I felt that this text was helpful and should be read by any instructor planning a large class. This text is especially targeted for higher education and I feel that it would greatly assist many of the large lecture courses that are so popular for introduction courses to math and science. I felt that the text had many good suggestions about how to ensure students retain a lecture as well as ways a teacher can determine where a class's understanding is on a given topic. I also felt that the suggestions for breaking the large group up into smaller groups were wonderful. I also felt that the chapter on Misconceptions was very important because it stressed the need to understand what prior knowledge students have when entering a class. The section on how to run sucessful labs was very interesting and as a novice in lab preparation I felt that the text gave alot of good pointers.

That said, I feel that although this book is helpful, it does not deal much with alternative forms of assesment as thouroughly as I would like. In chapter 6 the book discusses homework and testing grading and has a short section on portfolio's as a form of assesment. Yet beyond that there are suggestions for creating 'challenging' multiple choice questions and a discussion about the pro's and con's of multiple choice versus short answer.

Bransford,J., Brown, A., & R. Cocking, (eds.). (2000). How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience and School. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.

1st Reader Response) Chapter 2 "How Experts Differ From Novices"

The chapter did a good job with presenting the major research findings that demonstrate how experts differ from novices. The use of examples within disciplines such as physics and history is particularly useful in helping me understand and remember the general expert-novice differences in the area of education. As a tutor, however, I am not sure how I can make use of these findings to inform my teaching, although brief statements are made in the conclusion to address its application. A more thoughtful reader may be able to glean useful advice to improve the way he or she teaches in order to help students gain competence in a subject area. I find the chapter to be valuable in other respects: it introduces terms such "adaptive expertise," "accomplished novices," and "virtuoso experts." They lead me to think about expertise from a new perspective and reflect on my own learning goals as a student. These terms may lead teachers to rethink the learning goals they have for their students. Also, the chapter differentiates between content knowledge and pedagogical content knowledge. An awareness of this distinction is important because a good teacher should work to acquire both.

2nd Reader Response) In Chapter Seven of "How People Learn" the National Research Council describes several examples of effective teaching in history, mathematics, and science. The chapter argues that different disciplines require different approaches and methods of teaching and learning, and addresses what types of teacher knowledge are necessary to teach in various disciplines. Not only does effective teaching involve content knowledge and general teaching methods, but most importantly it requires pedagogical content knowledge. Content knowledge consists of the basic facts and concepts that relate to a certain discipline, and general teaching methods are generic and cannot necessarily be adapted to work across different disciplines. Pedagogical content knowledge, on the other hand, pertains to expert teachers who not only possess a firm content knowledge of their discipline but who also understand the structure of the discipline. This implies that a teacher with pedagogical content knowledge is able to guide students with the proper assignments, questions, and teaching methods, as well as be aware of any aspects of the discipline that will be challenging for students. The framework for identifying different types and structures of content knowledge and conceptual understanding for various disciplines is a useful one, especially when the ultimate aim of pedagogical content teaching is to set up a cognitive roadmap for students. With specific goals outlined, teachers are able to develop effective strategies to allow students to reach the desired outcomes for learning and understanding.

3rd Reader Response) Chapter 4 "How Children Learn" begins by refuting the common belief that children are not complex learners and explores, through experiments and research the ways in which this complexity is manifested in children’s everyday lives. Children are actually extremely curious beings that make sense of their surroundings in through their own thinking process as well as with the help of adults and other guides. In fact, the way a child’s brain works predisposes them to the metacognitive process. As a result, many concepts that adults may view as simple, such as the difference between inanimate or animate objects and differences in language, are picked up quickly and easily by children.

The primary difference between the learning abilities of adults in children is that children are lass able to control factors that impede their learning i.e. lesser memory capabilities. As well, outside of biological differences, there are cultural differences that influence what a child pays attention to and how they grow as learners. Since there is such diversity in the approach to learning, the best method to alleviate the impeding factors is to explore and encourage each child’s learning style as well as the impact of their community on their learning, and create an environment in which the child can focus as much as possible on the task at hand.

I found this chapter, while dryly written to be extremly useful for all people engaged in the education process with children--including parents, teachers, counselors, etc. Much of the information simply explores the everyday things that kids do, but positions them as learning experiences rather then simple childish behaviors. I also like how they explore cultural influences and their impact on children learning. I find those influences to be key in the educational development of children. However, how should schools interpret the information given in this chapter?

4th Reader Response) Chapter Eight, "Teacher Learning," of How People Learn makes an interesting move in the book's ongoing analysis of the ways and sites in which learning takes place. In this chapter, the perspective swings from examining students as learners to seeing teachers as learners. This informed perspective makes the analysis of the various styles of learning opportunities for teachers very clear and very grounded. The chapter identifies four different ways that teachers learn about teaching: from their own practice, through interactions with other teachers, in formal teacher education programs (both in the schools and in colleges/universities/graduate programs), and through personal roles such as parenting and coaching. Of these four identified means of continuing to learn the one I was most interested in was the final one on the list, the idea of learning about teaching from roles in our personal lives. Sadly, this topic was barely touched on again. The rest of the chapter was very helpful and informative in the way that it drew upon the vocabulary of teaching and learning that we had developed in reading the earlier chapters of the book, to model the successes and limitations of each program and the way that they capitalized on the different learning environments, knowledge-centered, assessment-centered, and community-centered. However, perhaps because I have heard the sentiment from experienced female teachers (not to say that this is not also true for male teachers, I just haven't spoken to any about it) that their teaching practices changed/evolved once they became a mother, I really wanted this chapter to get more into the piece about teacher learning as a part of one's personal life. This idea connects with me personally in the unfamiliar but distinct and powerful maternal instinct that rises up in me when I enter a classroom, despite the fact that I am years away from being, or wanting to be, a mother. I like the way the chapter mentioned this aspect because I see that the idea of learning from our personal lives and of bringing those lives (in some form) into the classroom as an extremely humanizing concept in the field of education and educational research. Yet I wish there was time or space in this chapter/book to address that key element of teacher learning more fully.

5th Reader Response) The chapter "Teacher Learning" in How People Learn discussed the opportunities that exist for teachers to continue learning about teaching. The chapter suggests that teachers learn from their own experience, their interactions with other teachers, and also from specifically designed professional development and enhancement programs. The quality of continued teacher learning varies for different learning environments. Teacher learning often fails to facilitate learning-centered environments by ignoring the needs of the teachers. The inability to combine learning-centered environments with knowledge-centered learning is also a weakness of continued teacher learning because the connection between pedagogy and content is missing. The chapter also emphasizes assessment-centered and community-centered environments as effective spaces for continued learning for practicing teachers. I found the discussions of knowledge-centered and community-centered environments particularly valuable in addressing two important issues that have emerged in my field work. "Learning involves making oneself vulnerable and taking risks...When [teachers] encourage students to actively explore issues and generate questions, it is almost inevitable that they will encounter questions that they cannot answer..." (195). The acknowledgement that it should be expected that teachers will never know everything about what they are teaching, and that this is a threatening feeling, is an important one especially for new teachers. But if community-centered environments are implemented, teachers will have communities of other teachers with whom they can share both knowledge and pedagogy, most likely making the challenge of teaching less daunting for teachers because they will have the opportunity to express their questions and receive feedback from other teachers.

Frank, C.. (1999). Ethnographic Eyes: A Teacher’s Guide to Classroom Observation. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

1st Reader Response) This text contains a very interesting and clear discussion about the importance of and how to acquire an ethnographic perspective. But what stops me from saying that an ethnographic approach would be particularly useful for extra-classroom teaching is its impracticality for many or even most of those involved in such teaching. Having “ethnographic eyes” requires spending lots of time in an observatory role. The author even acknowledges towards the end of the text that most classroom observers employing ethnography do not have enough time. But if most classroom observers do not have the time, even when their only duty is to observe, how are others more actively involved in a learner’s education supposed to have the time to employ ethnography? For example, it would be pretty much impossible for a math tutor to go over a learner’s math homework while simultaneously do notetaking/notemaking in order to see the tutoring situation from the learner’s perspective. Because many involved in extra-classroom teaching, rarely have the opportunity to just observe, key tools set forth by the author to acquire “ethnographic eyes” are rendered impractical for extra-classroom teachers.

However, there are some tools set forth that I think would be more appropriate for extra-classroom teaching. Portfolio reflections, neighborhood maps and audio-taping extra-classroom teaching sessions would be more suitable because they allow extra-classroom teachers to stand back and analyze the teaching situation as an observer using ethnography is supposed to do. It is just that this observation does not occur “in the moment” or as the teaching situation is actually unfolding, but instead at a later point in time, thereby bypassing the obstacle of juggling two roles (teacher and observer) at once. And although having a limited number of ethnographic tools means that one’s understanding of a particular teaching/learning culture will not be full, I think that limited understanding is still preferable to no understanding.

2nd Reader Response) Ethnographic Eyes by Carolyn Frank is a valuable resource for the potential ethnographer educator because it not only clearly explains what ethnographic research is, but also suggests practical exercises that the reader can use to actually engage in ethnographic research. The book's value to an extra-classroom teacher is to make apparent the limited knowledge an outsider has of the inside classroom culture. This makes conflicts with that inside culture more expected. What is not covered in the book is any guidance as to how to respond to that eventual conflict.

3rd Reader Response) Carolyn Frank's Ethnographic Eyes: A Teacher's Guide to Classroom Observation," illuminated the process of classroom observation for me. She does a great job of providing us (as ethnographers) with questions to ask ourselves as we try to step outside ourselves for a more objective view on the classroom. Through the use of ethnography (either formal, as Frank suggests, or more informal) we have the potential to expose the many layers of complex interaction that occur within the classroom. I also appreciated that Frank encouraged a process-oriented approach to observation; she emphasizes noting over judging, and then making interpretations based on the existing body of "evidence".

At the same time, I share some of Christina's concerns regarding the transferability of ethnography to extra-classroom settings. It seems that we would have to worry not only about making sure to be teachers first, but also about the potential for our students to feel like bugs under a microscope. One of the most interesting ways of negotiating the role of student teacher that Frank had to offer was that of keeping a two-way journal with the cooperating (supervising)teacher.

4th Reader Response) Overall I felt that this book would be helpful to teachers, both those entering the field and those who have already been in classrooms for a few years. I felt that many of the exercises which are suggested will be helpful, particularly the neighborhood mapping and reflective work. I would recommend reading this book in conjunction with a work by an experienced ethnographist (ex. Ways with Words by Shirley Brice-Heath). I would also encourage teachers and student’s teachers to continually re-evaluate themselves and their experiences throughout the process. I hope that those who use this book will embrace the idea of understanding the environments which their students come from as well as begin to deconstruct any biases they may have had when they began working in classrooms.

Emergent Pedagogy: Learning to Enjoy the Uncontrollable – and Make it Productive,” (pre-publication draft) Doug Blank, Kim Cassidy, Anne Dalke, and Paul Grobstein

1st Reader Response) In their essay “Emergent Pedagogy: Learning to Enjoy the Uncontrollable – and Make it Productive,” Bryn Mawr College professors Blank, Cassidy, Dalke, and Grobstein translate concepts of “emergence” from systems found in the natural world -“from water boiling to tree branching,” to a system of our social world - the classroom. The paper presents a compelling argument for less deliberate class structures. Such structures, the professors maintain, allow for learning to take place as a result of interactions between students and understanding to arise out of the unpredictable explorations that ensue when personal and group inquiry is privileged over the teacher’s authority and knowledge.

My own beliefs in the power of students’ imagination in their success found a foothold in the article’s description of a teacher’s role as “imagining experiences (of their students) and facilitating interactions” (7). As a young teacher, I found the idea that within an emergent classroom system teachers, “cease to be the setters of standards by which students are judged, becoming instead role models for the kinds of inquiry in which they want their students themselves to be engaged”(7) extremely satisfying. Within a hierarchical classroom structure I think that many young teachers feel they are unable to call upon what, perhaps, is one of their greatest connections with their students – the fact that they were so recently students themselves. I think because of the emphasis that is placed on expertise and authority by the hierarchical structure, young teachers avoid positioning themselves as fellow-learners with their students in order to maintain “control”.

One shortcoming of the paper, however, is that despite how well I come to believe in the strengths of emergent pedagogy through the professors’ detailed descriptions of the outcomes of the Summer Institute, by the end of the paper I still have very little idea of what an emergent classroom or emergence based project would look like in say a middle-school classroom. While theoretically I am deeply appreciative of the ideas in the paper, practically I am really no closer to being able to implement emergent pedagogy in my own classroom than I was when I began reading.

2nd Reader Response) The progressive concept of emergent pedagogy is introduced in this article. The objective of this approach is to nurture learners into independent inquirers and it consists of several characteristics: space for intellectual exploration (for both teacher and students); a focus on the development of learners; an emphasis on collaborative learning i.e. the interactions among students and between teacher and students. Under this model, teachers exert less control over the content that is learnt, allowing students more opportunities to generate questions and seek answers to their own questions.

I like this model because it creates a learning environment that allows students to develop as individuals, as well as to contribute to one another's learning. Learning is not as unstructured as it may seem. Like any other educational approach, this model makes some assumptions about the educator and learner. Firstly, the learner displays intellectual curiosity and has a natural preference for collaborative (vs. independent/isolated) learning. Secondly, the educator has a say over how to teach and what to teach. Thirdly, the educator has sufficient experience to monitor and facilitate student interactions so as to help/challenge learners to grow and leave the experience with something meaningful. With these prerequisites, the learning process unfolds into a productive experience for all involved.

As a student, I have been a participant in classrooms that used an approach somewhat similar to emergent pedagogy. I find it difficult sometimes to learn to "enjoy the uncontrollable." Just as teachers may feel uneasy relinquishing much of their control, students may feel uncomfortable and/or lost in the absence of domineering control. In order to evaluate the relevance and benefits of emergent pedagogy in different educational contexts, I think it is important to read this article with an open mind i.e. not be overly skeptical or embracing.

Powell, L. (1997). “The Achievement (K)not: Whiteness and Black ‘Underachievement.’” In Fine, M., Powell, L., & Wong, M., Off White: Readings on Race, Power, and Society. NY: Routledge.

1st Reader Response) Initially, I felt that the article was dramatizing the black-and-white conflict, especially with the psychological concept of "projection"; Powell talks about "how whiteness uses blackness as a receptacle for fragility and conflict." I now think that Powell has touched on something happening in the daily life that is very subtle, an almost unconscious process. She magnifies it for the readers by analyzing the class discussion she had with her students about the possible reasons for a skewed distribution of grades among white, biracial, and black students.

This is a difficult article for me in part because I am an observer (not an actor) in this cultural setup. However, I did find some aspects of this article useful. Firstly, it introduces the concept of "discourse of potential" and "discourse of deficit," which I think is useful in helping us think about issues of gender, class, and disability as well. Secondly, it makes me aware of how academic writing can compromised personal growth, as manifested in the "split between thinking and feeling" which is typically expected of students. Thirdly, it underlies the multiple concerns that may hold an educator back from addressing the issue of race with the class, especially when it is related to achievement.

Powell's conceptualization of the black-and-white conflict, in terms of projection, is thought-provoking and disturbing, in a way. It seems that she is underlining another form of emotional oppression and abuse that Black students experienced in the education system. I feel that this contributes to the construct of the disempowered Black student that many people may have, which may in turn reinforces the "discourse of deficit." I think it may be useful for readers to reflect on their own reactions towards the article, in order to better understand what Powell is trying to convey.

2nd Reader Response) Linda C. Powell begins this essay by exploring the ways in which educational institutions seek to address racism--by either celebrating the potential of students of color or by providing them special programs to prepare them for possible issues they may have on campus. The impact of each of these approaches, she later states, can have a devestating impact on the academic success of students of color, or more specifically African-American students as these students are sent dual messeges about their ability and reason for being accepted into the institution.

However, she does not analyze the problems just in terms of African-American progress alone--she compares them to white and biracial students, students of a lighter skin color, and begins to examine the ways in which the academic success of African-American students does not just reflect the intelligence of the students. Rather, they reflect greater social dynamics at work between the teachers and students and concludes that all people are responsible for the success and faliures of these students.

I really enjoyed reading this article because I felt it exposed the many forces at work with regard to the success of African-American students. Two messeges are indeed sent with those two letters and I can remember feeling the same sort of confusion when I got similar letters from Haverford. While there are many other layers to this issue, such as issues with other races, gender, and class, I appreciate her openness and beginnings for exploration.

Light, R. (2001). Making the Most of College: Students Speak Their Minds (Cambridge, MA/London, England: Harvard Univ. Press, chapter 5.
and
Herman, L. & Mandell, A. (2004). From Teaching to Mentoring: Principles and Practice, Dialogue and Life in Adult Education.  London: RoutledgeFalmer.

1st Reader Response) R. Light’s chapter on mentoring and advising from Making the Most of College: Students Speak Their Minds, begins with reports from graduating seniors about the successes and shortcomings of their experiences with advisors throughout college. As a graduating senior myself, I thought this article was very transferable to a specific type of advising – senior thesis (or senior essay) advisor. Most seniors spend a fair amount of their second semester (or first) stressed out and complaining about their thesis. Despite the fact that the idea of a thesis is that a student completes her college career by working in depth on a topic that holds great personal meaning to her, most seniors do not fill fulfilled by the experience. Read alongside Herman and Mandell’s chapters out of From Teaching to Mentoring, Light’s article pushed me to apply the more social/psychological/emotional issues raised by those authors to my own mentored experience.

Besides the pressure of having to do a lot of hard work, I think the stress and unhappiness of thesis writing comes from much deeper, more painful places.

The “No teacher ever asked me” part; In Herman and Mandell, we read about Tim who, when asked by his mentor if he like to work design a course of study around his personal interest in WWII, shuts down completely out of confusion and nervousness. Tim, like many seniors, has never had the opportunity to truly design his own learning or pursue a topic of his own determination. For many seniors, after 3 1/2 years or receiving and completing assignments and attending classes with preset syllabi, suddenly being required to develop, outline, and write a thesis – which supposedly is the culmination of one’s entire college career – is an unfamiliar, and thus somewhat terrifying proposition. Fear, self-doubt, and a million unanswered questions are a large part of the initial stages of preparing to write a thesis.

Feeling disrespected: Happily, many students do find an intriguing, challenging, and personal topic to pursue for their thesis. I was thrilled to be writing about the novel I had chosen and was surprisingly (I felt) excited to get started. I had a very ambitious, yet pretty clear, idea of I wanted to pursue from many angles. In my first meeting with my thesis advisor however, none of this came up. Despite my personal experiences in the country in which my novel took place and my enthusiasm for many of the critical theories I saw intersecting with my topic, I left my first, second, and third meetings feeling like I had not been able to express any of those personal connections and directions. I did not feel at all like the senior in Light’s essay who writes, “He [my advisor] …was more interested in trying to understand what matter[ed] to me than immediately discussing the strengths and weaknesses of [the theorists I wanted to work with].” A friend of mine, also a senior, reports feeling “attacked” by her thesis advisor for her ideas, as well as being made to feel, “stupid and non-academic.” I certainly don’t think that my advisor, or my friend’s, intended to make either of us feel that our ideas were not viable, or even stupid. However, I do think that since, as mentioned above, the experience of really hashing out an individual theory and essay is new and unfamiliar to many students, advisors need to realize that their primary role must be to respect their advisees ideas and through questions and supplemental texts help them to develop and challenge(!) those ideas.

Being alone: Finally (for now), I find that the most troubling part of thesis writing is how lonely and alienated many seniors feel during the long months of preparing, researching, writing, and editing. Because, unlike as a member of a class, no one else is completing the same assignment you are, there are very few people who are familiar enough with your topic to discuss it with you. Also, although there are other seniors working on their theses, the majority of the people you go to school with – freshmen, sophomores, and juniors – are not doing so, and in fact have very little understanding of what it feels like to be working on such a meaningful, high stress piece of work. Light’s discussion of the necessity of support groups for students hits home here (98). I have found that many of my fellow seniors even report feeling disconnected from groups – teams, a cappella groups, student activities – that they typically found supportive. I would venture that most of us don’t fully realize how destabilizing the basic awareness of an impending end - the way the relief and fear of graduation and a complete change in a lifestyle we’ve known for almost 17 years looms ahead of us – really is. Because of all of this, thesis writing becomes a repository for all of our loneliness and sense of alienation.

Both the Herman and Mandell chapters and the Light chapter affected me greatly. Mostly because of how frustrated I was to finally see a clear articulation of so much of what I felt my own college experience so greatly lacked. A progressive, respectful, real relationship with an advisor would have given me an outlet for all of my creative ideas, my positive energy…and my fears.

2nd Reader Response) In Chapter 4 of "From Teaching to Mentoring", Lee Herman and Alan Mandell look at "Waiting as Learning". The piece makes several very striking points, many of which I feel are essential to breaking down typical unproductive teaching/mentoring practices.

First, the chapter considers how central "waiting" is to social relationships and interactions--how this waiting demonstrates respect and engagement through thoughtful reciprocation. It also discusses the need in every interaction to be open to exploring and revising one's self. It looks at waiting as generative of understanding, fairness, and recognition of beauty.

The chapter then goes on to apply these more general social principles to college-level mentoring relationships, pushing teachers to open themselves up to reciprocation with students, to give up the idea that they are imparting knowledge and embrace a sense of shared learning. Recognizing the classroom as a social space and interactions between mentors and learners as social interacitons and questioning the unequal power dynamic that the teacher-learner roles tend to foster opens all parties involved to a sort of learning that is not only mutually beneficial for teacher/mentor and learner, but also potentially more lively and dynamic than a more traditional, fast-paced, transmission model of learning.

This chapter asks us all to upset our notions of requirements in life--the necessity for getting things done quickly or "on time", the importance of solidifying intellectual status by transmitting knowledge, the designation of knowledge as acquirable and commodity, and so on. It is a dynamic piece working to create a perspective on life and learning that is truly focused ON LIFE AND LEARNING, not on the many standards as measurements and tools we have set up to aid (and which, perhaps, serve more to prohibit) these essential pursuits.

Grobstein, P. “Getting It Less Wrong: Some Thoughts on Introductory Science Teaching After Biology 103, Fall Semester 1993.” http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/sci_edu/less_wrong.html

1st Reader Response) I really enjoyed reading about different methods in teaching science. All too often when we talk about progressive pedagogy, we talk about it in a way that excludes the natural sciences because, by nature of the material, only traditional methods will work. However, the readings, in particular “Getting It Less Wrong: Some Thoughts on Introductory Science Teaching…” showed me that it is possible to have an open and flexible pedagogy in science and still ensure that the students understand the material. The teacher focused on understanding the theory behind the facts. In doing so the students could discover the facts on their own while also thinking critically about what they are studying.

Rickey, D. & Stacy, A.  “The Role of Metacognition in Learning Chemistry.”  Journal of Chemical Education 77 (8), July 2000, 915 – 920.

1st Reader Response) The second reading, “The Role of Metacognition in Learning Chemistry” was also very interesting in that it clearly defines metacognition and applies it to different aspects of the learning process in chemistry. The student has to be aware of his/her own thinking process when it comes to understanding the material and problem solving so that the student can be aware when what they are doing or thinking is not productive. The reading really emphasizes student governance in the learning process and even offers ideas for tests and instruction to encourage the metacognition process.

Shank, M. (2000). "Striving for Education Rigor: Acceptance of Masculine Privilege." In Lesko, N. (Ed.). Masculinities at School. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

1st Reader Response) Th[is] reading on feminist pedagogy focused on the material and methods not just who was teaching. They emphasized including women’s lives in science and making their experiences “normal” as opposed to a unique and “special” study. As well, it focused on ideas that I feel all pedagogies should have including redefining authority to include students and their ideas and empowering students to be independent thinkers and learners. Outside of the theory they also gave practical ideas for arranging your classroom to meet the feminist pedagogy ideals.

Th[is] reading [was] by far my favorite reading, not just because I consider myself a feminist and it gave me some helpful tips which I will definitely use :) but also because the tips they gave can be applied to all subjects not just chemistry. I understand the focus on chemistry (and science in general) since the field is so male dominated. However, who wouldn’t benefit from creating an inclusive pedagogy? As well, the tips can be used to include other minorities as well including people of color and people who are not heterosexual.

Davis, Sumara, Luce-Kapler (2000). “Learning Theories.” In Engaging Minds: Teaching and Learning in a Complex World.

1st Reader Response) This article explicates the distinction between complicated and complex theories of learning (e.g. constructivism), and provides useful examples to illustrate the application of complex learning theories. I always think that behaviorism and mentalism differ greatly in their conceptions of learning processes; behaviorism focuses on external environment and mentalism focuses on internal mental activity. Apparently, the two theories are similar in terms of their limitations. Firstly, they do not emphasize the importance of social interaction and exchange in the learner's development. Rather, the learner acts and learns in isolation. Secondly, they make the distinction between mental activity and physical experience, as evident from their respective conceptions of learning processes. It is important to keep in mind that the theories are complementary, not contradictory.

More importantly, the article points out that complicated learning theories endorse the notion of learning as the taking in or integration of knowledge (as an external thing) by the learner. Complex learning theories, on the other hand, views learning as adaptation. Knowledge is created as the learner interacts with his/her environment, which is constantly changing. It is interesting to consider the negative implications of thinking about knowledge as something to be acquired; does the learner always play a passive role in the act of acquiring? How does it conflict with the idea of constructivism? It seems that the constructivist and social constructionist model merely emphasizes the learner's active interaction with his/her environment and other individuals. In a way, the article led me to re-examine what I already know about learning theories, but at times, it was also confusing to understand.


Connolly, P. (1989). "Writing and the Ecology of Learning." In Connolly, P. & Vilardi, T. Writing to Learn Math and Science. NY: Teachers College Press.

1st Reader Response) Paul Connolly's "Writing & the Ecology of Learning" explores the interrelationship of writing and learning. He makes the distinction between learning to write and writing to learn. He explains the process of writing as a method to improve student learning compared to learning to write as a mechanical procedure that students learn to do. He also argues "language, oral or written, is an expressive instrument through which we communicate what we have previously thought." Writing is the articualtion of thought and students can learn to do that through writing. Connolly suggests concrete ways to incorporate ways of thinking and learning through formal and informal writing (e.g. free-write(s)). He asserts that the classroom environment is less about a teacher's teaching and more about the students' thinking and learning. Through his evaluation of writing to learn it brings me to reconsider my agenda as a teacher and think about the objective(s) of my students in ways to approach knowledege, language and teaching.

Costa, A. & Kallick, B. (2003). "The Teacher as a Self-Directed, Continuous Learner." In Assessment Strategies for Self-Directed Learners. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

1st Reader Response) In Arthur Costa and Bena Kallick's chapters on the Teacher as Learner, we get a clear, thoughtful and well planned out explanation on being an effective teacher via metacognitive practices. These steps help break down the ways a teacher is always a student because she/he is revising, absorbing new material, and reflecting on the experience.

"...effective teachers are alert, aware, and concious of what is occurring in the classroom."

"It is not self-directed learning when you simply tell students everything--we have to let them make discoveries." (pg 15)

This "advice" is sorely needed, and welcomed.

2nd Reader Response) I’m a big fan of Arthur L. Costa and Bena Kallick’s model of the teacher as a “Self-Directed Continuous Learner.” I think it really gets to the heart of what the duty of the teacher is and it helps to dispel this notion that good teachers just sort of “happen”; as if they are just some naturally occurring phenomenon. Also, as I noted in my Handbook Entry I think that this model is even more appropriate for the extra-classroom teacher since most extra-classroom teachers seem to be in the position where they only have the “self” to help them figure out how to improve their teaching. While I felt that the two of the sub-divisions (The Self-Monitoring Teacher and the Self-Modifying Teacher) of the Self-Directed Learner model would be useful, the first sub-division of the Self-Managing teacher does not seem very relevant to extra-classroom teachers because it only interprets “self-managing” to mean planning a lesson. Finally, I really appreciate this reading because it makes teaching seem less terribly daunting since it emphasizes that good teachers have humility. There is no such thing as a “super-teacher” and all teachers are going to make mistakes. The important thing is, like we tell schoolchildren, to try and learn from them. Knowing that good teaching means constant learning rather then being perfect was a relief for me.

Bruffee, K. (1999, 2nd edition). Collaboration, Conversation and Reacculturation in Collaborative Learning: Higher Education, Interdependence, and the Authority of Knowledge. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press (Chapter 1)

1st Reader Response) In Brufee’s first chapter of Collaborative Learning: Higher Education Interdependence and Authority of Knowledge entitled “Collaboration, Conversation and Reacculturation” he discusses a process that I feel is a very important part of a teachers job, that is to teach her/his students to broaden their horizons and begin to learn from and contribute to the academic community. To illustrate his points he narrates his own discovery of the need to reacculturate his students. He explains that by working with a group of fellow English professors he came to understand that instead of teaching students that their knowledge and skills were wrong or incomplete he would have them work as a group to learn a new set of skills to add to their existing knowledge, thus teaching them how to participate in the academic community. He then explains that he feel that the best way to do this is to create a community in which the students can work together towards academic understanding. He admits that initially getting students to work together and engage in community activities of learning may be difficult however; he explains why this is important and will be understood regardless of initial misunderstanding.

I enjoyed this chapter very much and for the most part I agreed with Brufee’s reasoning. I feel that it is important for students to learn how to participate in the larger academic community. However, I often felt that although he was discussing the importance of reacculturation he did not accept the richness of the cultures the students belonged to prior to entering the academic community. Although it is important to be able to talk to academics it is also important to be able to translate what you have learned into your own communities. Also, although he discusses student resistance to group work he treats it as a problem that will solve itself when students realize what the teacher is trying to accomplish. Overall, I felt that it was a very interesting piece that touched on an important job for a teacher.


Gardner, H. (1999). “Disciplined Approaches.” In The Disciplined Mind: What All Students Should Understand. New York: Simon and Schuster.

1st Reader Response) In “Disciplined Approaches” Howard Gardner argues that the disciplines do exist, that is there are delineations in the way our society gains knowledge including history, science, mathematics, and art. We use these various disciplines in order to answer fundamental “questions of the true, the beautiful and the good.” Thus, if the disciplines exist, we should teach our children to use each of them in order to answer questions. Furthermore, this disciplined approach should be taught by using specific examples instead of trying to cover content comprehensively.

I think that his argument is true, the disciplines do exist. But, should they exist? And then, if they don’t exist, how should we teach our children? The validity of the disciplines for Gardner rests simply in their existence. He doesn’t question their future or legitimacy any further than that. When read with these questions in mind Gardner’s piece is valuable in that it is thought provoking and sheds light on how we form school subjects and university departments.

Also, whether teaching with a disciplined approach or an undisciplined approach I think Gardner’s advice can be helpful: “While the interest of students can be engaged in many ways, the presentation of dilemmas - or their cousins, essential questions and generative ideas – has proved an especially effective means of attracting attention.”

Baker, J. (2002). "Trilingualism." In Delpit & Dowdy, (Eds.), The Skin We Speak: Thoughts on Language and Culture in the Classroom. New York: Simon & Schuster.

1st Reader Response) This article is Judith Baker's account of her efforts to make formal English accessible to her students while simultaneously affirming her students' home languages. Baker saw that the urban teens in her classroom were not faring well in an academic context, and recognized that their distance from formal English had become a barrier to their academic success. She breaks down the "right/wrong" binary by helping students come to a linguistic and grammatical understanding of the languages spoken in their respective primary communities. A student's deepened knowledge of her home language allows her to understand the ins and outs of formal English more completely, thus permitting her the ability to move between languages with greater ease and to select language appropriate to a given context. Baker's unusually curious and unpatronizing attitude towards her students and towards dialects which are often demeaned allows her to use her position as a teacher (and therefore a gatekeeper) to respectfully open doors for her students, without shoving them through.

Rodgers, Carol. (2003). Seeing and Feeling Seen: The Central Roles of Description and Descriptive Feedback in Reflective Practice.” Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association.

1st Reader Response) This essay written by Carol Rodgers, centers around the idea that “there is no greater gift you can give to a child or her parents than the gift of feeling known, or feeling ‘seen’.” She then goes on to explain how to do this and what impact this has on both the teacher and student.

One method she explains is ‘descriptive feedback.’ This is “a reflective conversation between a teacher and his or her students wherein students describe their cognitive and affective experiences as learners relative to a specific learning experience or group of experiences.” Descriptive feedback thus allows students to think about how they have learned, to become aware of his/her learning processes, and to become “aware of the multiple ways of learning and making sense of the world.”

Descriptive feedback also significantly affects the teacher. It requires that the teacher’s attention be directed to the students and their learning, instead of the curriculum or their teaching. In addition, descriptive feedback requires the teacher to be ‘more present’ to students. This, for example, involves not being focused on having student get the right answer, but instead “attending to learning itself and to respond with the best next step.”

I think that many issues brought up in this essay are valuable for all types of educators to use as a tool to rethink the ways that one teaches. As an extra classroom teacher, some of the issues in the essay lead me truly to analyze the ideals and structure of my placement setting. In doing so, I realized that that in general, the environment was not conducive to fostering a feeling of being ‘seen’ for the students. I believe having this awareness now will help me to be a better extra classroom teacher.


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