Thursday, February 26, 2009

Interactive teaching- the Learning in Science Project (LISP)

If we really believe students 'construct' their own 'meanings' from any experience then teachers need to value the 'prior ideas' , questions and theories their students have. Only then can they set about to challenge and help students clarify what they know and can do. Some of the best research in this process was completed in NZ in the 80s by researchers at Waikato University but has been, more or less, ignored by those in authority since.

In the 80s, as a science adviser, I was involved in the development of the Learning in Science Project (LISP). It had evolved when a university physics professor became worried that the knowledge he thought his students ought to have been taught seemed to be missing in his classes. He found that it had been 'taught' , but that the students had been taught in way that their 'prior ideas' had not been changed in the process, or that they did not have the confidence to use what they 'knew' in practical situations. Some call this 'fragile' learning and it exists throughout the curriculum.

The basic findings were that children bring to any science lesson ( or any lesson in any subject) meaning that interfere with their acceptance of 'scientists' or teachers views.

Out of the research an inquiry model for teaching was developed; a model that can be applied across all learning.

It is a concern that, as teachers are being encouraged to focus on developing learning how to learn 'key competencies', that the importance of deep understanding of content is being ignored. A focus on competences only is resulting in 'thin learning'. I have seen evidence of such poor teaching where students, after completing a bush, study learnt little about the bush - the teachers more concerned with the 'key competencies' being gained.

The same concern is seen where teachers seem keener to show that they are using a range of thinking skills without any real gains in actually developing deep thinking, or understanding, about content.

This problem is not helped by an over emphasis on literacy and numeracy ( divorced from the afternoon inquiry programme) leaving little time for exploring the other learning areas.

Unless teachers know what their students think and why they think that way, teachers have little chance of making any impact with their teaching.

An 'interactive' approach allows teachers to work alongside their students to help them co- construct better learning. Such an approach gives time for teachers to develop their own understanding of content and not be seen as the font of all knowledge. Both teachers and learners are involved in the inquiry process resulting in 'constructing', or creating deeper understanding.

Our 'new' curriculum states that learners should 'seek ,use and create their own knowledge'. An interactive approach enables this to be achieved and, in the process, naturally develops the life long 'key competencies'.

Briefly the interactive inquiry model asks teachers;

1 Place students in an interesting situation ( in any learning area) that stimulates them to ask questions.

2 Record students question and gain insight into the students prior ideas.

3 Help students select suitable questions for them to research. With experience students could work in groups researching different questions. This will require clearly defined group tasks.

4 Students undertake their research.
To do this requires a number of skills to be in place: how to do an experiment and write it up; how to 'seek, use and create' information; skills of information technology; and design and presentation of their ideas. All these need to be part of well thought out literacy( and numeracy) programme. Teachers, during this research, need to interact with students, provide resources, to challenge their ideas, and to help them stay focused on their tasks.

6 Students report, demonstrate, exhibit, or display their findings and reflect on how their understanding, knowledge and skills ( including 'key competencies') have changed. Hopefully such conclusions will result in further questions to explore illustrating the tentativeness of all learning.

To be honest there is little evidence that such an approach is common in our schools
. 'Cut and paste' is still the common fare of student 'researchers'.

An interactive approach will remedy such poor learning.


Anonymous said...

One does not pour knowledge into students' heads. Instead, we must understand how students think, and build from there. See "Teaching and Helping Students Think and Do Better" on amazon.

Anonymous said...


Bruce Hammonds said...

I presume you received Bill's book Jody? The key is to make use of your literacy (and numeracy) times to:

teach skills needed; to research key questions; to introduce background content etc so that students can use this work indepedently of you in their inquiry groups while you focus on a teaching group.

To see the literacy time and inquiry time as 'mirror images' of each other.

Unknown said...

Bruce, Yesterday I had tweeted about an ASCD article from 2001 entitled "Trying too Hard? How Accountability and Testing are Affecting Constructivist Teaching" and how disappointed I was that not much has changed since then... Your blog today was a perfect follow up and I did tweet that today! At least there is more talk about it and I do believe project based education is getting more focus. We'll keep plugging!
MAKE A Difference Initiative

Unknown said...

What a learning history and improvement..based on this we did interactive learning please find
Interactive Learning
for details