sábado, 31 de maio de 2014


Teaching Humility at the Bedside

By Damiana Andonova

In 1906, William Osler addressed the University of Minnesota medical students with some moving words.

“In these days of aggressive self-assertion, when the stress of competition is so keen and the desire to make the most of oneself so universal, it may seem a little old-fashioned to preach the necessity of humility, but I insist . . . that a due humility should take the place of honor on your list [of virtues]”

His words couldn’t be more relevant today.

Humility is an underappreciated skill in a time of global budgets, evidenced based approaches, and cost-containment. The bright, well-read, talented medical students who may lack humility are not uncommon. And while they strive to become the competent and confident physicians their future patients yearn for, they must also pay attention to learn their roles at the bedside, to be the sort of physicians their patients deserve.

Balancing the technical aspects of medicine with the more humanistic aspect of honoring and developing patient-physician relationships is of serious importance at the bedside; negotiating one with the other can be difficult.

Teaching this sort of confident humility, or humble confidence requires experience and practice. It is no understatement to say that teaching humility is hard. But, perhaps, teaching it at the bedside might have its advantages.

Jack Coulehan, MD, MPH, proposed four attributes for 21st century physicians should strive for:

1) Unpretentious openness
2) Avoidance of arrogance
3) Honest self-disclosure
4) Modulation of self-interest

How clinical professors can go about teaching them is not so clear.

There are several schools of thought. One school of thought suggests employing panel discussions with patients and physicians, home visits, book discussions, film screenings as well as the use of simulated, standardized, and real patients.

The other school of thought, and perhaps the most controversial, believes humility can be taught through acculturation. They find that perhaps medical school admissions look for signs of practiced humility in applicants, that clinicians in leadership positions select clinical professors based on the qualities of caring and humility, and that clinical professors model these virtues in all aspects of their teaching. It is very different from the current model in practice—find the best test-takers and find the most meritorious professors and hold lectures.

Still, other researchers suggest that medical students must deal themselves the task of “having heart” by taking time to self-evaluate, to think about shortcomings and areas to improve upon, and to remember there is always more to learn. An article that explores this is “The Importance of Stupidity in Scientific Research”. It is a highly recommended read.

Stephan Genuis similarly speaks of revisiting scientific impotence and integrity to recognize that science, like medicine, doesn’t always have the answers. In this century of rapid information turnaround, finding a way to underscore the importance of humility as part of the patient-physician relationship could decrease medical errors and ironically, iatrogenic and nosocomial disease, which Genuis argues, has accounted for “sobering rates of morbidity and mortality”.

The Stanford Medicine 25 approach to bedside manner deals, in part, with all of these ideas. The Stanford 25 session is taught by a seasoned clinician who welcomes questions, explains thoroughly. A resident then takes responsibility and volunteers to repeat the exam stepping out away from their desk and out of their comfort zone. They practice humility and compassion by teaching the exam to a fellow resident. This builds community, trust, and memory. It also has the potential to foster humility and compassion.
Teaching Humility at the Bedside

As clinical professors, one can do only so much. But perhaps Karin Hunt speaks of five good starting points.

1. Build confidence.
2. Master the art of great questions—“Who did you involve in the diagnosis? What do your fellows think of this diagnosis? Who was more comforted by the diagnosis you or the patient? ”
3. Get students out of their comfort zone—Allow them the opportunity to practice what you taught.
4. Help students improve.
5. Model humility.

Students, in return, can take responsibility to adopt this in their informal curriculum and spend a few minutes to self-evaluate, to think about the limitations and successes of medicine and their role at the patient’s bedside.

We leave you with this final thought:
“Oh that I had the heart to spare you grief! / The grace of humility is a precious gift,” writes Jack Coulehan, in his poem “Pantoun on Lines by William Osler”.


Coulehan, J. (2009). Pantoun on Lines by William Osler. JAMA, 302(17), 1844. doi:10.1001/jama.2009.1505
Coulehan, J. (2010). On humility. Annals of Internal Medicine, 153(3), 200–201. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-153-3-201008030-00011
Coulehan, J. (2011). “A Gentle and Humane Temper”: Humility in Medicine. Perspectives in Biology and Medicine, 54(2), 206–216. doi:10.1353/pbm.2011.0017
Genuis, S. J. (2006). Diagnosis: contemporary medical hubris; Rx: a tincture of humility. Journal of Evaluation in Clinical Practice, 12(1), 24–30. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2753.2005.00599.x
Gunderman, R. B. (2014). A Call for Humility in the Regulation of Medical Education. Journal of the American College of Radiology. doi:10.1016/j.jacr.2014.03.025
Hurt, K. (2013, March 19). Can we teach leaders humility? Let’s Grow Leaders. Retrieved from http://letsgrowleaders.com/authenticity-transparency-trust/humility_and_leadership/
Li, J. T. C. (1999). Humility and the Practice of Medicine. Mayo Clinic Proceedings, 74(5), 529–530. doi:10.4065/74.5.529
Schwartz, M. A. (2008). The importance of stupidity in scientific research. Journal of Cell Science, 121(11), 1771–1771. doi:10.1242/jcs.033340

domingo, 25 de maio de 2014

Blogs científicos

Crise no jornalismo estimula aumento de blogs científicos

Elton Alisson - Agência FAPESP 

A crise pela qual passa o jornalismo mundial, causada em parte pela convergência para novas plataformas digitais, tem afetado a cobertura jornalística de ciência e estimulado o surgimento de blogs científicos em diversos países, inclusive no Brasil.

A avaliação foi feita por Juliana Santos Botelho, pesquisadora e coordenadora da Coordenadoria de Comunicação Científica (CCC/Cedecom) da Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais (UFMG), em um painel sobre o uso de mídias sociais na comunicação da ciência durante a 13th International Public Communication of Science and Technology (PCST), realizada entre os dias 5 e 8 de maio em Salvador, na Bahia.


Com o tema central “Divulgação da ciência para a inclusão social e o engajamento político”, o encontro ocorreu pela primeira vez na América Latina e reuniu pesquisadores de mais de 50 países para debater práticas e estratégias de comunicação e divulgação científica adotadas em diferentes partes do globo.

“Há um crescimento do número de blogs de ciências no mundo, especialmente nos países que falam inglês, e a crise no jornalismo mundial tem contribuído para esse aumento”, disse Botelho, que também mantém, o blog Diálogos com Ciência e realizou um estudo sobre 150 blogs no Brasil.

De acordo com dados apresentados pela pesquisadora, a crise no jornalismo mundial tem causado um alto número de demissões em massa e a redução do número de jornalistas em atuação nas redações dos grandes veículos de imprensa em todo o mundo, incluindo os do Brasil.

Uma das principais consequências desse processo, na avaliação dela, é um número cada vez menor de jornalistas cobrindo um número cada vez maior de assuntos.

Em razão disso, a cobertura de ciência nos grandes veículos perdeu espaço editorial nas páginas dos grandes jornais e no noticiário das emissoras de rádio e de televisão.

“Essas mudanças têm causado impactos na cobertura de ciência feita pelos grandes veículos de comunicação, em termos de qualidade, em todo o mundo”, avaliou Botelho.

De acordo com a pesquisadora, outra consequência sensível do impacto da crise do jornalismo na comunicação da ciência é a homogeneização cada vez maior da cobertura jornalística do assunto.

Com a redução do número de jornalistas nas redações, os veículos de comunicação de diversos países têm recorrido cada vez mais a materiais jornalísticos padronizados sobre ciência produzidos por agências de notícias internacionais, apontou Botelho.

O problema é que os veículos recebem o mesmo tipo de material que seus concorrentes, que também compram das agências de notícias, e fazem pequenas adaptações.

Na maioria das vezes, as matérias sobre ciência produzidas pelas agências de notícias internacionais são relacionadas à produção científica de países do hemisfério Norte, ressaltou Botelho.

“Os pesquisadores brasileiros não aparecem na maior parte das matérias sobre pesquisas científicas publicadas no Brasil, por exemplo. E, quando aparecem nas notícias sobre ciência, é para comentar os resultados de estudos que foram publicados por pesquisadores de países do hemisfério Norte”, avaliou.

Crescimento dos blogs

A fim de suplantar a perda de espaço editorial dedicado à ciência, especialmente na mídia impressa, e aumentar a divulgação de resultados de pesquisas realizadas por cientistas brasileiros, tem aumentado o número de blogs de ciência no Brasil, apontou Botelho.

O número de blogs de ciência brasileiros, contudo, ainda é bem menor do que o número de blogs nos Estados Unidos e na Europa. E as políticas editoriais para os blogs ainda são muito incipientes no Brasil, destacou a pesquisadora.

“No Brasil não temos políticas editoriais muito estruturadas para blogs em geral e para os blogs científicos como as implementadas por veículos de imprensa e instituições universitárias de países como os Estados Unidos e Reino Unido”, comparou Botelho.

Segundo a pesquisadora, alguns veículos de comunicação têm optado por cientistas (ou pessoas de outras áreas que nunca tinham usado blogs) para serem seus blogueiros colaboradores.
Outras especificidades dos blogs de ciência brasileiros, de acordo com Botelho, é que eles são bastante independentes. Em sua maioria, não estão ligados a empresas de comunicação ou instituições.

O volume de notícias publicadas pelos blogs científicos brasileiros presentes nos veículos de comunicação também é menor do que o de outros blogs independentes no país. A publicação nos blogs da imprensa é constante, mas não é muito frequente. O que mais chama a atenção da pesquisadora nos blogs de ciência no Brasil, contudo, é a falta de interatividade.

“Isso pode ser uma característica cultural do Brasil”, avaliou Botelho. “Geralmente as pessoas se sentem mais à vontade para postar seus comentários em redes sociais, como o Facebook e o Twitter, mas não nos blogs”, disse Botelho.

A pesquisadora ressaltou, no entanto, que, apesar da importância dos blogs científicos para aumentar a difusão da comunicação de ciência, eles não devem substituir a cobertura jornalística de ciência pelas mídias tradicionais, como jornal, rádio e televisão.

Isso porque esses meios de comunicação já possuem público cativo e abordam assuntos científicos com maior frequência do que os blogs científicos, apontou Botelho.

“Os blogs científicos possuem um papel muito importante de experimentação de novos formatos de publicação e de estilos de escrita. Mas não devem, de forma alguma, substituir a cobertura jornalística sobre ciência e sim complementá-la”, afirmou. 

quarta-feira, 21 de maio de 2014


A língua dominante em avaliação é o inglês?

Infelizmente acredito que sim.

No ano passado conheci um grupo de avaliadores brasileiros em uma conferencia, e soube através deles a crescente demanda por bons estudos avaliativos no Brasil, mas também a necessidade de mais iniciativas de capacitação nesta área, e informações práticas e relevantes escritas em um contexto local, em língua portuguesa. Foi então que resolvi pesquisar em que este grupo tão entusiasmado estava trabalhando. Não somente grupos no Brasil, mas em outros países de língua portuguesa.

Aliás, somos 10 países com português como a língua oficial (Brasil, Moçambique, Angola, Portugal, Guiné-Bissau, Timor-Leste, Cabo Verde, São Tomé e Príncipe, Macau, e Guiné) com uma população de aproximadamente 259 milhões de pessoas.

Usando o Google.com, procurei por relatórios, blogs, cartilhas, e artigos, em língua portuguesa, em um contexto local. Embora tenha encontrado alguns bons documentos, principalmente produzidos pelo Brasil e Portugal, não encontrei muito dos demais países. O que encontrei foram alguns relatórios de avaliações, feitos em países de língua portuguesa, não necessariamente por avaliadores locais, escritos em inglês e endereçados a financiadores internacionais.

Não me levem a mal, acho positivo ter uma língua comum, o inglês, para facilitar a troca de informações e comunicação entre profissionais, mas acho também importante desenvolver e preservar conteúdos em língua original, além de desenvolver a capacidade de avaliadores locais. Acredito que temos um dever cívico com a população de nossos países, em produzir informações que podem ser acessíveis a todos.

Foi com este intuito que resolvi criar uma pagina inicial, em português, no BetterEvaluation. O link é http://betterevaluation.org/portuguese. Nesta pagina inicial, listo os nomes de sete associações ou networks de avaliadores de língua portuguesa, mas podem existir outras. Esperamos colaborar com essas associações de algum modo.

Com o intuito de estimular o compartilhamento de informações, adicionei ao site recursos em língua portuguesa, como por exemplo:

Estudo de caso: a avaliação externa de um programa (serie de folhetos desenvolvidos pelo Instituto Fonte, Brasil)

Este documento narra as experiencias pessoas do coordenador de uma avaliação de um projeto educacional. O autor descreve as etapas do processo de avaliação, investigando as mudanças que o projeto trouxe aos alunos, e as metodologias usadas.

Este documento apresenta uma descrição do modelo logico, sua aplicabilidade, e como desenvolver um modelo logico com a finalidade de aperfeiçoar programas e projetos.


Para aqueles que conhecem o ‘Rainbow Framework’ do BetterEvaluation, ou ‘Quadro Arco-Iris’ em português, sua versão compacta também esta disponível em língua portuguesa.
Para buscar por outros recursos, uso o botão ‘search’ no canto direito da pagina do BetterEvaluation. Digite ‘portugues’ e outros recursos aparecerão. A quantidade de informações em português ainda é modesta, mas é algo que pretendemos estimular nos próximos meses. Principalmente com eventos de avaliação acontecendo no Brasil.

Também tomei conhecimento que existem cursos para avaliadores oferecidos por instituições brasileiras, como por exemplo:

Será que existem cursos profissionalizantes em avaliação offerecidos em outros países de lingua portuguesa?

Para encerrar, convido todos os avaliadores a participarem desta iniciativa, e partilharem seus conhecimentos práticos sobre o uso de métodos e processos de avaliação, usando exemplos locais. Vamos fazer do BetterEvaluation um espaço também para a comunidade lusofônica.

Para maiores informações, contate Cristina Sette (c.sette@cgiar.org), um membro da equipe do BetterEvaluation.

segunda-feira, 19 de maio de 2014


'PBL-TBL: Where the ‘L’ are we; and how do we know it?'

Dear Colleague
The AMEE Research Committee invites you to join the next Dialogues in Medical Education (DIME) interview and conversation between Diana Dolmans, Maastricht University in the Netherlands, Larry Michaelsen, University of Central Missouri in America, and Stewart Mennin on Thursday 22 May 2014, at 3pm (1500) BST/UK time. The topic will be – ‘PBL-TBL: Where the ‘L’ are we; and how do we know it?’.

The World Clock available at http://www.timeanddate.com/worldclock/meeting.html may assist you with translating the time into your time zone.
Registration for this session is not necessary – on the date and time of the DIME session, click on the direct link to enter the room (http://ameelive.wimba.com/launcher.cgi?room=DIME).
If you have not used the Wimba platform before please run the Wimba Set-Up Wizard (http://mededworldlive.wimba.com/wizard/launcher.cgi?wc=wms)

Professors Dolmans & Michaelsen have provided short video clips to help with some background to Problem-based learning and Team-based learning. Those who'd like to learn more about TBL should visit the TBL web site: www.teambasedlearning.org

The video links for TBL are:

The video link for PBL is:

We look forward to welcoming you to the session.

AMEE Secretariat

quarta-feira, 14 de maio de 2014

Portal da Abrasco

Abrasco lança novo portal da Saúde Coletiva

Uma nova ferramenta em atualidade com os tempos atuais. Nesta semana, o novo portal da Associação Brasileira de Saúde Coletiva – Abrasco – entra no ar, renovando a forma de comunicação da entidade com seus pares, comunidade acadêmica, comunidade da saúde e sociedade em geral. O lançamento marca também o início das comemorações dos 35 anos da Abrasco.

Clareza, possibilidade de interação e uma melhoria significativa na alocação das informações foram os principais quesitos que motivaram e orientaram as mudanças, realizadas pela equipe de comunicação da Associação junto com a empresa de webdesign Artexpressa. Logo na entrada do portal, há as notícias em destaque, atualizadas diariamente; um campo para avisos e a lista de notícias, separadas agora em editorias. Todas as notícias terão espaço para comentários do público. A interação se dá também com as redes sociais, como Twitter e Facebook, expostas suas últimas atualizações ao fim da home page.

Os principais eventos da Associação: Congresso Brasileiro de Saúde Coletiva (Abrascão), Congresso Brasileiro de Epidemiologia, Congresso Brasileiro de ciências Sociais e Humanas em Saúde, Congresso Brasileiro de Política, Planejamento e Gestão em Saúde; Simpósio Brasileiro de Vigilância Sanitária; Simpósio Brasileiro de Saúde e Ambiente ganharam páginas próprias, no qual trazem as informações sobre os eventos e todo o histórico dos mesmos publicados na internet desde 2006.

A vitrine da página de entrada dá visibilidade também a outros produtos de comunicação: a TV Abrasco, que ganha maior visibilidade e o Podcast Abrasco, com curtas matérias de rádio para serem ouvidas pelos internautas. Abre espaço também para a lista das obras em destaque oferecidas pela Abrasco Livros, que prepara seu novo site e terá como principal ferramenta o comércio eletrônico.

As estruturas que compõem a entidade e os fóruns de coordenadores de Pós-Graduação e de Graduação também ganharam nova roupagem. O link para a Rede APS está, por enquanto,apenas no menu A Abrasco com um texto falando dos seus 4 anos de atividade. Em poucos dias deverá ganhar um destaque na página principal com sua logomarca remetendo para a página da Rede. As Comissões e GTs terão espaço destacado para apresentarem seus documentos e manterem seus pares informados. Os dois fóruns terão suas listas de programas e cursos atualizadas e uma biblioteca, facilitando o acesso de seus documentos.

O novo portal encontra-se em fase de testes e já está no ar. Quaisquer dúvidas podem ser esclarecidas pela Comunicação da entidade, pelo e-mail comunica@abrasco.org.br.

Navegue e seja bem-vindo!

Student Evaluation

Student Evaluations Aren’t Useless. They’re Just Poorly Used.

By Jonathan Malesic

If it’s early May, then it must be time to talk about what student evaluations of teaching are worth. In a recent essay in Slate, Rebecca Schuman claims that student evaluations are “useless” in their current form, because they encourage students to punish rigorous teachers with low scores and mean comments (and, all too often, sexist or racist ones). The article has gotten a lot of attention from academics I know, who have shared their own stories of uninformed and upsetting comments.

Schuman argues that in light of the unreliability of evaluations, it is unjust to base hiring, firing, and promotion on them. This is especially true for graduate students and part-time faculty members, for whom course evaluations are sometimes the sole documented indicator of job performance.

She is right about the injustice of relying so heavily on a faulty measure of teaching quality, but that in itself does not mean that student evaluations of teaching are useless. It just means we need to use them better. (And, in fact, Schuman does not say we should discard the evaluations altogether, though she does recommend making them more accountable by removing students’ anonymity.)

So how can we make evaluations work better to assess and improve our teaching? Here are four ways to start.

1. Don’t make them the only measure of teaching effectiveness.

Because student evaluations are imperfect, they must be supplemented by other measures that, together, can produce a more reliable picture of a teacher’s effectiveness. Ideally, we could look at what students can actually do at the end of a course (or, in educational lingo, use “valid, direct assessment”). Schuman points to how well her students could communicate in German by the end of her course. But even such an assessment does not tell the whole story, because not all of our courses’ goals are readily measurable after 15 weeks of class. We may want to wait to pass judgment on an instructor until we know how his or her students fare in subsequent courses, or how many get into medical school, or how many become valued resources in their communities. We could even take the philosopher Solon’s advice to the extreme, and call no one a good teacher until all of her students are dead.

In the meantime, though, we do need to make decisions regarding faculty evaluation and development. Classroom visits can help us understand the teacher as a performer and facilitator. Assignments can tell us about rigor and creativity. Responses to students’ papers, exams, and lab reports can indicate the teacher’s empathy and ability to pinpoint how students can improve. Small Group Instructional Diagnosis can elicit constructive student feedback while filtering out the extreme student voices.

2. Know the capabilities and limitations of the specific evaluation instrument.

Where possible, employ forms that have been shown to be statistically valid measures of several independent aspects of the instructor and course. The Student Evaluation of Educational Quality (SEEQ) is one example. At King’s College, we moved to the SEEQ after an analysis of our previous instrument showed that it was measuring only one variable: whether the student liked the class or not. In addition to measuring students’ perception of the instructor’s enthusiasm, preparation, and other aspects of his or her teaching, SEEQ also asks students about the relative pace and workload of the course, revealing whether they find the course “hard,” and so giving more context to interpret the raw evaluation scores.

3. Acknowledge that evaluation scores are correlated with students’ expected grades.

Or, perhaps more accurately, acknowledge that they are correlated with expected grades relative to students’ GPAs. Once you do that, you can measure the relationship between scores and grades and adjust the scores accordingly. Teachers whose scores are consistently above the adjusted mean are doing something that students appreciate, and teachers whose scores are consistently below the adjusted mean are doing something that students don’t appreciate. Find out what those things are by talking with them about their teaching, visiting their classrooms, and reading their assignments and comments on student work.

And just to head off one avenue of critique, I’ll say that doing things that students appreciate is not the same as pandering to them. If students feel valued, if they feel comfortable in a class, if they feel supported, if they just like being in the class, then several obstacles to their learning are removed, and they have a better chance of success.

4. Don’t leave student evaluation of teaching for the end of the course.

Student evaluations of teaching are useless if the teacher finds out what students think about the course only after the course is over. If you want to know what students think about the course while there is still time to make adjustments, you can ask them to fill out the evaluation forms at midsemester. (This should be done anonymously, because while grades are still unsettled, students’ worries about retribution have more legitimacy.) The midterm can also be an opportunity to get students to evaluate their learning, so that they can make changes in the second half of the course. Evidence indicates that instructors who solicit and respond to such feedback end up with higher end-of-term evaluations.

Student evaluations of teaching do not tell us everything we’d like to know about ourselves as teachers. And they do permit students to turn nasty. But they do tell us something. By using them as one measure of teaching effectiveness, we do not capitulate to the student-as-consumer model of education. Rather, we put a measure of faith in our students’ sense (if imperfect) of what is good for them. We acknowledge that our courses are about their learning and that we care about how better to enable that.

* Jonathan Malesic is an associate professor of theology and director of the Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching at King’s College, in Wilkes-Barre, Pa.

terça-feira, 13 de maio de 2014


How Safe is Your Teaching Job From Technology?

Is Technology Really a Threat to Your Role as an Educator? This question arises from time to time, especially among the technophobes out there, so I thought it deserved a direct response! – KW

by Dillon Wallace

This question has been ominously circulating since the 1980s when computers first made their way into schools – will technology ever replace teachers? Even after 30 plus years, the answer is still a resounding, no. Teaching, and its art form, are built on a strong foundation of passion and a complex body of knowledge. It’s not a simple, repetitive task with few variables involved. Educating is about customizing, planning and engaging students of all walks of life in an environment where each individual has the chance to succeed.

Old School Teacher image 

There isn’t a one-size fits all glove for teaching. Every student learns at a different level in his or her own unique way, be it demonstrations, hands-on learning, small class sizes, standard lectures, solo reading, etc. Teaching is about tailoring, adjusting and emotionally stimulating – something a machine/technology can never replace because teachers are not and never will be seen as simple mechanisms handing out information to students.

Technology is not a threat to teachers’ jobs because teachers assume the roles of leaders, guides, initiators and mentors keeping students on path, encouraging them when they struggle and inspiring them to always reach beyond their grasp. Technology can spew out information, but teachers can roll up their sleeves and lend a hand at learning or an ear at listening in the ultimate plan for success.

In fact, today’s technology and tomorrow’s tech will more than likely only enhance teaching and student learning. With so much technology at our disposal, teachers have many more possibilities with which to reach their students. Technology and teachers will not only continue to coexist, but they will benefit one another.

Here are just a few areas in which teaching can benefit from and be empowered by technology.

  • Relevant engagement – Teachers can always implement a human connection by selecting relevant content tailored toward their curriculum, customize options for levels of difficulty, alternate ways to learn and more. They can read the situation and act accordingly based on what is and what isn’t effectively working. And now with tools like laptops, tablets and other smart devices, it’s even easier to connect anywhere and anytime with students.

  • Complex learning – A teacher and a chalkboard can’t always capture the imagination of a student. Technology can help improve students’ understanding of complex concepts through the use of in-depth animations, simulations and visualizations (videos and etc.).

  • World wide access – Technology can provide added benefits to the classroom when it comes to accessing research, connecting to people, organizing group projects, recording data and more.

  • Real world expertise – More than ever, technology has provided students with the same tools professionals use in their day-to-day careers, giving hands-on learning a whole new meaning. Whether you’re a writer, composer, producer, researcher, number cruncher, analyst, designer – whatever – there are tools at students’ disposal, virtually everywhere.

Technology will not replace teachers now or in the near future as the two continue to improve the opportunity for students to learn. In an increasingly digital world, it’s important to remember that the passion between loving to teach and loving to learn is a human connection that can only be shared between a teacher and his or her students.

sábado, 10 de maio de 2014

"Now you try!"

Teaching Encounter Provides an Up-Close Look at Learning Something New

I just taught a dear friend how to knit, and in doing so I revisited how very challenging it is to teach something you can do easily. 

Knitting, like so many of the skills we teach, including concrete skills like running a lathe and abstract ones like critical thinking, cannot be learned in theory. It is learned by doing. “Now you try,” I say after several slow, deliberate demonstrations of the motions. Oh my, such clumsy confusion. “Here, let me show you again.” I slow down even further and talk through the movements needed to make a stitch. Good gracious, I can hardly watch these tortured, truncated movements, so far from the peaceful, rhythmic flow of knitting. As the confusion continues, thoughts start going through my mind. How many times am I going to have to show her? It can’t possibly be this hard? And why am I feeling frustrated?

I worry about order and pacing. Knitting starts (and ends) with two basic stitches, knit and purl. She has those, sort of. Is it time to move on? What’s next? Common combinations of the two basic stitches? Or should I work on her technique? She’s got to stop propping the needles up on her belly. And we need to move on to something other than this scraggly “sampler” (as she calls it). The needle size and yarn weight are creating something less than lovely. It’s not the kind of knitting that inspires continued effort and she still has lots to learn. I search for something that she can do. It needs to offer challenge but also the strong possibility of success.

Then there are the mistakes. I have forgotten how many ways there are to do it wrong. I aspire to learner-centered teaching, which means she needs to take the lead in identifying and fixing her mistakes. Great in theory—hard in practice, I quickly discover. She fixes things slowly, laboriously, and that takes time away from knitting. She focuses with intense ferocity, which is not only tiring, but it seems to lead to even more errors. And some of the mistakes are serious. Whole rows must come out. I step in and make some of the corrections, wondering if that’s a good idea.

My mind whirls. What feedback do I need to provide? How many corrective messages? I think I’m offering too many and they’re worded so negatively. “No, not over the needle, the yarn goes between the two needles.” “No, that’s not a purl bump.” I should be more positive. I should be asking more questions, offering hints, and making helpful suggestions.

She’s trying so hard. Will she notice if I laud the effort and not the knitting? She is improving but more slowly than I expected. I look at her work and know it would be dishonest to call it good. “Look here, see these four stitches? Wow! They are so smooth. That’s exactly what you want. Good job.” She sighs. I sigh. This is hard work.

We have four days together with books to discuss, walks to take, and a friendship to celebrate. Despite working diligently on the knitting, we are running out of time. I’m afraid she isn’t ready to do this on her own. I buy her books and talk about online resources. She will need the help of a couple friends—people she tells me aren’t good teachers. I feel like I’ve failed.

My flight leaves early. I’m getting the coffee on and there on the counter sits her project—or is it her project? Oh my God, she has done 12 error-free rows! I look more closely. Yup, there are no mistakes. She’s beside me now. Joy dances from her face to mine. “I did it!” “Yes, you did and it looks beautiful!” We hug, celebrating the learning and the teaching.

It’s good to have these in-your-face teaching experiences, I decide. With so many students and too much content to teach, it’s easy to miss the struggles of individual learners and not notice how teacher actions aid or confound the process. It’s easy to be perplexed by a learner’s confusion and quickly draw conclusions about ability. Most important, it’s easy to forget that what now seems simple, straightforward, and perfectly obvious is usually not that way when it’s first encountered. Teaching takes a lot of patience; learning takes a lot of persistence.