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rayg50
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Posted - 08/05/2013 :  7:26 PM                       Like
I would like to pursue a conversation that started in a different thread. You can read the original thread here if you would like the background.

The description of this forum is "This is an area for non-safety related posts that are neither political or humorous in content. Robust discussion, digression and expression is encouraged. Come on in as the water is fine."

I'm hoping that anyone that has a point of view will join in. I like my thinking challenged and am not against changing my point of view when presented with a reason to do so. Below is the specific post that I am hoping will lead to some robust discussion.

quote:
quote:

Originally posted by rayg50

The second part I felt was a sincere question about the math level attained by the average product of the educational system here. I attempted to answer it using myself as an example and in turn I asked my own question. The question was a bit of a loaded question because of my personal philosophy on education which I will share with you now. I expect any educational system to teach reading, riting, and rithmetic. I then expect it to get the hell out of the way as we teach ourselves whatever strikes our fancy (or our need) to whatever level of competence we desire / decide. I personally measure the success of an educational system on the level to which it develops critical thinking. If one (anyone) reads or hears or learns of something and does not stop to analyze it but blindly accepts it as fact then IMO the educational system failed. But then again we all know the earth is flat and the sun revolves around it. How could it be otherwise? The town crier has told us it is so.



I think you may be requiring two different and contradictory things. A system that teaches only reading, writing, and arithmetic then gets out of the way will not teach critical thinking. To teach critical thinking, the students must have some content to think critically about, and reading, writing, and arithmetic are primarily about skills, not content. We think critically about literature, science, history, political science, economics, etc..

Secondly, I must point out that simply teaching a skill, whether reading, writing, arithmetic, or critical thinking, does not guarantee that the student will subsequently use that skill. For example, when I was in college, I took and passed a course in symbolic logic, which was primarily a skill course. It was interesting, and I did well in it, but I have not used most of it in the more than 40 years that have passed since I learned it. To solve a symbolic logic problem today, I would have to retake the course.

Mental skills, as well as content knowledge, are not retained if not used. Student who don't enjoy reading will not read for pleasure, and will gradually lose most of the reading skill they have. Students who don't like math will use only those basic math skills required by their jobs or daily life. Students who don't use their writing skills will forget them. And students who do not use critical thinking skills regularly will forget how to think critically in any systematic way.

For this reason, I don't judge the educational system by the skill levels of its graduates several years after they graduate. The fact that people who were high-school graduates four or five years ago, for instance, do not write well does not mean that they were not taught the skills, or even that they did not master them well enough to pass the course in which they were taught. If they subsequently never used those skills, they have lost them.

Finally, in teaching critical thinking, as mentioned before, the student must be presented with content that requires them to think critically. Very often, such content will involve an area of controversy. In today's highly-charged political atmosphere, most teachers have learned from bitter experience that teaching anything but the most sketchy summary about controversial topics is a good way to lose their jobs.

rayg50
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Posted - 08/05/2013 :  8:31 PM
Some of my response will be devils advocate but if I can pull it off you will not know what parts those are. Some of my responses may seem curt but you can't get robust discussions without stirring the pot.

quote:
I think you may be requiring two different and contradictory things. A system that teaches only reading, writing, and arithmetic then gets out of the way will not teach critical thinking. To teach critical thinking, the students must have some content to think critically about, and reading, writing, and arithmetic are primarily about skills, not content. We think critically about literature, science, history, political science, economics, etc..

So they read nothing, write nothing, and do nothing with the math?

Do you really believe that the average young adult has opinions about literature that they are forced to read? Actually they do but for the most part it could not be expressed in polite society. The French literature class was less about the philosophy or themes and more about the vocabulary and the adjectives used to bring the stories to life. In short it taught the language. Radical thought they had in that class. Teach the *skill* so that it could be applied to anything. Then again we could have spent hours discussing the implication of a characters height being less than 6 feet.

I think I'm getting the hang of this. Let's see the response(s) I get before we move on. I have intentionally left out critical thinking at this point.

Have at me.

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rayg50
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Posted - 08/06/2013 :  6:17 AM
Let me see if I can give the big picture to what I am trying to get across. If the dialogue unfolds as I expect some of my position will seem to be circular logic.

Much of education is based upon what came before. If someone goes into a learning experience without the proper background knowledge they are at a disadvantage in learning the new material. Whenever I have prepared to present new material I have reviewed with the class the background knowledge needed to understand. It is taking one step back to then take 2 steps forward. While some have argued that if you do that you will "never get through the material" it has been my personal experience that the opposite has been the case. We would invariably finish the required material before the end of the semester and exit exam results (finals) showed that the method worked with a greater success rate than others.

An example would be that if I should ever need to present exponentiation I would first need to present multiplication but before I did that I would present addition. Does this mean that I would teach addition or multiplication? Not really but maybe some examples so that the relationship between the two would allow the logical next step to be make sense. No rabbits out of the hat.

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Daddio
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Posted - 08/06/2013 :  9:31 AM
The scope of this discussion can get very wide. I have an opinion on just a small slice of the pie.

When I took my math courses, I felt like they were mainly math for math's sake. Yes, there were the word problems that tried to let you know the mathematics was useful in the real world for solving real world problems. However the class was mainly about manipulating equations for math's sake.

When I took physics, I viewed that mostly as an applied mathematics course. We used the tools we were taught in pure math to solve real world applications. Discussion of manipulating equations was inevitable, but it was not the main point of the teaching of the course. We were expected as prerequisite to have taken the pure math courses that would allow us to work the equations generated by the science.

OBTW - In reference to doing the equations on the fly while riding, I enjoyed understanding why I was experiencing the forces in general. I would think about how to set the equations to explain the forces. This was not the place to do the actual math.
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rayg50
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Posted - 08/06/2013 :  11:41 AM
Daddio thank you for joining in. Slices are welcome.

quote:
When I took physics, I viewed that mostly as an applied mathematics course. We used the tools we were taught in pure math to solve real world applications.
Your comment is a prime example of what I was trying to get across. My explanation is that the physics allowed you to solidify your understanding of the math you had learned previously. It gave it context. The math then allowed you to understand and learn the physics. Like I said, circular logic.

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Daddio
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Posted - 08/06/2013 :  6:02 PM
quote:
My explanation is that the physics allowed you to solidify your understanding of the math you had learned previously. It gave it context. The math then allowed you to understand and learn the physics. Like I said, circular logic.

I agree with what you said. I always looked at math as a tool. I look at applied math as the reason the tool exists. So much of the world can be explained mathematically. Pure math would be boring without an application. A wrench would be useless without a bolt to remove or install. I pursued an engineering degree and used math tools in statics, fluid dynamics, electronics and such. The physics was used to introduce those topics that were more deeply explored in the specialized courses. All in all, very circular reinforcement.

I love talking to folks that say their math education was a waste. They will try to convince you they have not used algebra since school. I will counter with something like, Did you look at your gas gauge today? Did you buy gas or not? Without knowing it they actually made the decision to buy or not buy gas based on simple algebra, actually a word problem they solve without thinking about it. Do you have enough milk in the fridge? Same deal.
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rayg50
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Posted - 08/06/2013 :  7:21 PM
Education tends to be linear. You learn A then B then C. IMO, there comes a point, within a discipline, where it must stop being linear and become circular. Unfortunately I've seen too many instances where the reason for the failure to understand has been identified and the dismissive sentiment "they should already know that" has been expressed. It is almost as if it would be cheating if the student learned and *understood* the material because they were helped to connect the dots.
quote:
All in all, very circular reinforcement.
Circular reinforcement, I'm stealing that.

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gymnast
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Posted - 08/06/2013 :  9:04 PM
It was about 50 years ago that I first became aware of Bruner's Spiral Curriculum model. http://www.bing.com/search?q=Bruner...m&FORM=R5FD2

There are additional sources of information related to the concept of the Spiral Curriculum here, http://www.bing.com/search?q=the+sp...&form=MOZSBR
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rayg50
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Posted - 08/07/2013 :  6:11 AM
Gymnast, thank you so much for pointing me in this direction!!
quote:
Referencing his overall view that education should not focus merely on the memorization of facts, Bruner wrote in Process of Education that 'knowing how something is put together is worth a thousand facts about it.'
Kind of puts an exclanation mark on the discussions here particularly in the "Physics and theoretical" forum, and IMO, a double exclamation mark on the value to be found in the books authored by this sites administrators.

I am not an educator but rather a life long educatee who has on occasion had the opportunity to share and to learn by teaching. First glance says I may be able to learn some things from Bruner. I have always appreciated your posts that include links and searches. They allow me to drill down and see if I hit oil or water. Thanks again.


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gymnast
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Posted - 08/07/2013 :  8:27 AM
Here is a bit more for you. http://www.bing.com/search?q=Bruner...&form=MOZSBR

I was was a "hot shot" in school in math until, upon reflection, I ran into a couple of teachers who had no idea of what they were doing and the the reasons that math existed. They turned me off to the degree that I gave up on the idea of becoming an engineer. Simple minded comments such as "The purpose of math is to teach you how to think" turned me off at a time that I was quite sure that the purpose of math was to solve problems.

My oldest kid, the daughter whose undergraduate degree is in Aero-Astro Engineering had the benefit of good teachers even though the curriculum at her small rural high school was quite limited. During college she interned at NASA and later worked at Rocketdyne on the "Stars Wars" programs. My son, a Mechanical Engineer, enjoyed the benefits of an excellent prep school education and holds shares several patents related to acoustical applications. The daughters oldest son is finishing his Masters in Aero Engineering and currently at Space X for the summer. Her youngest will start a degree in Biomedical Engineering next year (the daughter also picked up a degree in Biomedical Engineering so this may be a motivating factor)

My personal opinion is that pre engineering programs are desperately needed beginning at about the third grade and that both the concepts of advanced mathmatics as well as the history of engineering and invention need to introduced at that time.

Lastly, when it comes to your own kids, parental expectations and guidance as well as the facilitation of an appropriate educational environment are critical. Over the last 40 years or so, the American public education "system" has been an expensive exercise in "social engineering" and has failed the expectations of a significant majority of the people. The "leveling down" and "progressive leadership" of the Public Schools and Universities in the USA is a major social problem yet to be seriously addressed by this nation.





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Axiom2000
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Posted - 08/07/2013 :  8:52 AM
quote:
Lastly, when it comes to your own kids, parental expectations and guidance as well as the facilitation of an appropriate educational environment are critical. Over the last 40 years or so, the American public education "system" has been an expensive exercise in "social engineering" and has failed the expectations of a significant majority of the people. The "leveling down" and "progressive leadership" of the Public Schools and Universities in the USA is a major social problem yet to be seriously addressed by this nation.



You hit the nail so square on the head and so hard so as to have broken the hammer I believe.
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rayg50
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Posted - 08/07/2013 :  10:34 AM
quote:
I was was a "hot shot" in school in math until, upon reflection, I ran into a couple of teachers who had no idea of what they were doing and the the reasons that math existed. They turned me off to the degree...
When the "new math" was about to be rolled out here I was hired as a consultant to give some train the trainer sessions to elementary school teachers. I was shocked to discover how many of them FEARED math. Kids sense fear so I could only imagine the number of them that formed mental blocks against the subject matter.

I don't know how many times after that I mentally thanked Ms. Gantt my third grade teacher. She instilled in us a pride and confidence in our math skills. God bless her. Mind drift: I also learned that even at that age I could appreciate a gorgeous woman.
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rayg50
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Posted - 08/08/2013 :  10:31 PM
I don't know if it is lack of interest or tacit agreement but the debate I expected did not develop.

Let me offer some mind drift followed by a very abbreviated version of my philosophy on the value of the 3 R's.

Intelligence and knowledge is infinite. Your intelligence and level of knowledge does not diminish me or limit my abilities. I take pride in what others know and therefore have thrived when partnering with subject matter experts. I enjoy gaining through their knowledge.

There is a difference between ignorance and intelligence. One can be ignorant of a subject and still be intelligent.

The next time you think you are smarter than the guy cleaning the floors let's take a quick test on cleaning supplies, mixing ratios, and then let's do a practical on the buffing machine.

If you take great pride in your education I applaud you. If it causes you to look down on someone else's I do not.

If you think your education was so great, then I invite you to retake ALL of your finals for all of your courses at 5 year intervals after graduation. Let me know how that works out for you.

Mind drift end.

I made a statement that the goal of education should be to teach reading, writing, and arithmetic. I think that those skills are poorly and incompletely taught.

When you first learned to read your instructor would read, have you read, explain what you had read, explained the words you did not understand, and probably analyzed the formation of the sentences (say past present participle three times fast). As you progressed, at some point that ended. The same holds true to a greater or lesser degree for the other 2 skills. You are expected to have "learned it". The fundamental building block of repetition is abandoned.

Reading is a multidimensional skill. Reading a math book or a technical reference requires a different reading skill then reading a murder mystery. Writing them also require different skills. Were you taught how to read or write them or was it assumed that you had already learned it because you knew (or were supposed to know) what an adverb was? The same holds true for math. Did your science classes teach you how to read and understand a chemistry or physics text?

My point to all of this is that much of memory is short lived (don't think it is? Then why did you study the night before an exam and not the week before?).

A focus on reading, writing, and arithmetic across the curriculum, would allow one to continue one's education long after one stops taking formal classes. Unless you are different you have learned much since graduation if nowhere else you have done so in your career choice.

I don't see how knowing what the Boxer Rebellion was can possibly serve you better than being able to apply those skills to whatever career you choose.

My .02 and all of it IMO.


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rayg50
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Posted - 08/09/2013 :  6:35 AM
quote:
The Socratic method (also known as method of elenchus, elenctic method, or Socratic debate), named after the classical Greek philosopher Socrates, is a form of inquiry and discussion between individuals, based on asking and answering questions to stimulate critical thinking and to illuminate ideas. It is a dialectical method, often involving a discussion in which the defense of one point of view is questioned; one participant may lead another to contradict himself in some way, thus strengthening the inquirer's own point.
This is a natural way to learn. If you've ever spent any amount of time with a child at some point they have pounded you into the ground with questions. I don't know how or why or when we lose this gift but we do. Educators should seek to revive it.

It is the reason that when I invite opposing opinions it is a sincere request. If you cause me to change my thinking you have done me a great service. If your challenge reinforces my thinking you have done me a great service. Either way I have been given the opportunity to revisit it and view it through a different set of eyes and experiences.



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James R. Davis
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Posted - 08/09/2013 :  10:32 AM Follow poster on Twitter  Join poster on Facebook as Friend  
Bravo! Your comments are well considered and clearly not meant to be argumentative - they are informative.

While I intensely abhor arguments that lack civility, sometimes I find myself in otherwise civil discussions that rely on 'touchy-feely' components, and wonder if they can be productive at all. So it is with some trepidation that I offer the following thoughts about 'cultural education'.

Here are a few critical words that I intend to use in this post: Interest, self-interest, relevance, and passion. If those are off-putting to readers, they may wish to simply move on instead of reading the rest of this post.

The three R's are tools. Foundational tools. One does not have to master any of them in order to survive. One usually needs only to be competent with each of these foundational tools in order to thrive.

The issue of 'learning how to learn' is curiously circular in that, since the concept presupposes the use of these tools, it begs the question of how one learns to use the tools themselves.

It is my belief that students must be interested in a subject in order to absorb sufficient information about a subject to become even marginally competent with it. And failing a natural interest, it is sufficient for them to recognize a self interest - an advantage - in order to expend the effort.

Competence transcends to mastery given additional effort resulting from the addition of passion.

A teacher should not simply be required to present facts and rules. Their job, as I see it, is to awaken interest, assure their students become familiar with their self interests, and to present information in such a way as to ignite passion (and curiosity) whenever possible. Relevant tools and materials to be studied are choices the student gets to make on his or her own.

But that all sounds 'touchy-feely', so I'm done with this missive - for now.
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scottrnelson
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Posted - 08/09/2013 :  11:09 AM
quote:
Originally posted by James R. Davis

A teacher should not simply be required to present facts and rules. Their job, as I see it, is to awaken interest, assure their students become familiar with their self interests, and to present information in such a way as to ignite passion (and curiosity) whenever possible. Relevant tools and materials to be studied are choices the student gets to make on his or her own.
I think you've just pointed out why I never liked history or English classes, but loved physics.
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aidanspa
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Posted - 08/09/2013 :  1:10 PM
Great thread Ray. I've been watching with interest as the k-12 educational system in this country is a hot button with me.

The US education system spends more per student on primary and secondary than all but a few developed countries (for 2010: Luxembourg, Switzerland, Norway, Finland) yet ranks 25th in math, 17th in science and 14th in reading.

Just 6 percent of U.S. students performed at the advanced level on an international exam administered in 56 countries in 2006.

A 2010 survey of 1000 teens by Intel found that despite ranking 21st out of 30 in science and 25th out of 30 in math literacy among students from developed countries, 85 percent of American teens are confident in their own math and science abilities. So at least our kids have good self esteem.

Easy to spend hours at this site, National Center on Education and the Economy, which researches the best performing education systems around the world, and this one, Center on International Education Benchmarking (Top Performing Countries).
quote:
Originally posted by James R. Davis

A teacher should not simply be required to present facts and rules. Their job, as I see it, is to awaken interest, assure their students become familiar with their self interests, and to present information in such a way as to ignite passion (and curiosity) whenever possible. Relevant tools and materials to be studied are choices the student gets to make on his or her own.
I agree 100%. Shouldn't those teachers be the rule rather than the exception? Many of us had one or two teachers, somebody like Ray's Ms. Gantt, who sparked something in us, that went beyond the required presenting of facts and awakened a love of learning. I would bet that many students are not so fortunate and are left wanting and disillusioned.

So what to do?

I think that until the US establishes a culture where k-12 education is highly valued and parents have huge expectations, like in Asia, Scandanavia, et al, nothing will change. There must be a "moral purpose" in providing our kids the best education we can.

What's stopping us?

Lack of school choice. Unlike our our world-class Universities, which are run like businesses and must compete for your tuition dollars, kids are assigned to government schools based on proximity to their home. Government schools, like any government run monopoly, have no incentive to improve or evolve. Curricula is "leveled down" as gymnast pointed out to get kids through the system and make them somebody else's problem.

Unions. The best performing k-12 educational systems in the world don't have labor unions to deal with. Bad teachers keep their jobs, "merit pay" and other incentives for teachers to excel are squashed, and "vouchers" to open up school choice are demonized.

Karen Lewis, president of Chicago Teachers Union, led a strike last fall which left 400,000 kids without a place to go. With a new school year about to begin, socialistworker.org calls for building "fighting" teachers' unions, and to look to last year's "successful" CTU strike as an example. Anybody think the kids' best interests are what matters? Money, power and influence are what matters.

Sorry Ray, but you asked.
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gymnast
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Posted - 08/09/2013 :  3:43 PM
The levels of learning,http://www.bing.com/search?q=the+le...&form=MOZSBR

Readiness and principles of learning, http://www.bing.com/search?q=learni...&form=MOZSBR

Foundational knowledge, http://www.bing.com/search?q=What+I...ge&FORM=R5FD

The foundational institutions of cultures, found in all cultures, and the principal factors resulting in differences between cultures.
A Family organizational structure (monogamy, polygamy, patriarchy,etc)
B Religious beliefs and structure (monotheism, polytheism, etc)
C Government Structure (tribal, feudal, aristocratic, theocratic democratic, etc)
D Education structure (elite tutorial, apprenticeship, tax supported public, privately supported etc)
E Business and trade (barter, coinage, open, closed, free, centrally planned etc)
F Language (extent of vocabulary, written, spoken, etc.

The above, A-E. are some of the fundamental institutions of a culture and account for the differences between cultures such as those between the ancient Greeks, Persians, and Phoenicians. In the modern era of nation states these difference still exist in the foundations of institutional cultural differences.

In the USA we are part of a cultural tradition, that of Western Civilization, which traces it's institutional roots back to ancient Greece.


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rayg50
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Posted - 08/09/2013 :  5:25 PM
quote:
... and "vouchers" to open up school choice are demonized.
I'm not quite sure how the voucher system would work. The little I know of it has led me to believe that you can choose to opt out of the public school system and receive a voucher whose value can be applied towards private school education.

That about right?
quote:
Sorry Ray, but you asked.
LOL. I'm glad I did. You've raised some nice "issues" that I hope will evolve into points of conversation.
quote:
It is my belief that students must be interested in a subject in order to absorb sufficient information about a subject to become even marginally competent with it. And failing a natural interest, it is sufficient for them to recognize a self interest - an advantage - in order to expend the effort.

My first hand experience has been with adult education. Many were working stiffs who had returned to earn / complete their degree. It was therefore a mix of ages for the students. I had a first session speech that I would give where, in part, I would explain that while I do not take myself seriously I am extremely serious about whatever I do. I explained we were going to have a good time but that if they earned an "F" they would get an "F", no mercy shown. During the semester if I felt someone was slacking I would repeat it to them. I would also have them introduce themselves and tell me why they were in the class. After hearing all of BS answers and telling them what a crock their answers were, I would go up to the board, draw a couple of $$ on it. I would tell them "this is why you are here. This is a money course. If you master this material someone will pay you and pay you well.". Yes, I agree, self interest is a motivator. The speech took about 15 minutes and was a combination of a comedy act and the inquisition. LOL at the memory. It set the stage nicely for what they would go through.

Self-interest and a good time while at the edge of a cliff, cool stuff.
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gymnast
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Posted - 08/10/2013 :  1:13 PM
A school that uses the Socratic Method.

Bright Spots in the Bubble: The Case of St. John?s College

http://pjmedia.com/rogerkimball/201...glepage=true
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rayg50
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Posted - 08/11/2013 :  8:32 AM
Radan2, as I said, we are not as far apart as one might think. As with riding, in education I strongly suspect that you know that one size does not fit all. What works for one student may not work for the one seated next to them. What works for one class may not work for another. The art in teaching is finding and using what works. Quite often it has meant using multiple methods within one presentation and then going one on one with some.

Education must have defined goal. I have alluded to my definition of what that goal should be and may have the opportunity to flesh it out if the thread continues.

I have used many more declaratives in this thread than I have in all the posts I have made in the past combined. This is / was not an accident. Per board rules, declaratives **MUST** be challenged if they are believed to be wrong or misleading.

I believe you have much to offer, welcome back into the dialogue.

Edited to include the name of the author whose post I am responding to.

Edited by - rayg50 on 08/11/2013 10:52 AM
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