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Posts Tagged ‘learning’

Comfort zones

One of the reasons I began writing this blog is to force myself out of my comfort zone.  I’m an avid reader and always have been.  I am comfortable with a book in hand, but I have never felt comfortable writing which I explained in an earlier post, I Hate Writing.

Recently I read a book about teaching writing that mentioned  – if teachers are going to teach writing then they should be writers themselves.  Not published writers per se, but people who are comfortable putting words on paper. So here I am writing!
My goal is to write every day, just like I have my students do.   Some days I will probably write a lot and other days just a few sentences.  I may or may not post everything I write.  I will have to see what happens (and what comes out).

So far I’ve discovered that writing allows me to see things from a different perspective.  Focusing on the words I type frees up the problem solving area of my brain to do some creative thinking.  It’s similar to my days as a math major.  There was always that problem who’s solution evaded me no matter how many times I tackled it.  Frustrated and annoyed I wold go to bed.   While I slept, my brain would figure out how to solve the problem and I’d wake up with one of those EUREKA moments!

I’m not sure I’ll have a eureka moment about writing, but I do know that one of the best ways to improve as a writer is to write.  As an educator and a parent I rely heavily on Lev Vygotsky’s concept of the zone of proximal development.  Not much learning occurs when a child completes a task that is too easy.  Nor will the child learn much when a task is way beyond his/her ability.  Vygotsky’s zone defines those tasks in between  – the ones that are a little too hard for the child to complete independently but with a little help the child is successful.  It is during these guided activities when learning occurs.

Students won’t grow and develop unless they venture past their comfort zone and neither will their teachers.

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One day last fall I experienced a curious phenomenon.  A few of my students scored lower on the informal October assessments than they had on the formal assessment in September.  No progress was being made.  In fact, it appeared as though they were moving backwards rather than forwards.   I looked at the dismal results in front of me and wanted to cry. Well OK, I did cry.

After my pity party, I picked myself up and dusted off my data analysis skills.  I knew that the numbers in front of me meant more than a simple decrease in scores.

I looked at the assessment questions – three-fourths of the questions were multiple choice.  I looked at the responses given by the students.  Interestingly, I noticed that on the most recent assessments, they had either answered the question correctly or did not provide an answer at all.  It was my theory that in September these students made some pretty lucky guesses – not hard to do when you have a 25% chance to guess correctly.  In October, these students were aware of when they did not know the answers and didn’t guess at all.  My students had become aware of what they knew and what they did not know.  That is progress plain and simple, despite the appearance of regression.

Just like the planets in retrograde motion appear to be moving backwards, it’s all a matter of perspective (well and some physics).  My students were moving forward in the same way that Mars follows an elliptical orbit around the sun even though the data points show otherwise.

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