Teacher journal archive (2008-2011)

Article Title

Looking into practice : teach a child to fish


The author often wonders about the 'discussions' he has with his Year 3 students. Is he more interested in their answers being 'right' or 'wrong' than the journey of discovery? Perhaps the discussions are actually more like monologues with an occasional question to get an answer to support his point of view. Would the students actually learn more if he talked less? He decided to test this hypothesis and attended the Monash University Science Teaching and Learning (STAL) program sponsored by Melbourne's Catholic Education Office. The first afternoon session was on 'Floating and Sinking'. Participants were challenged by the facilitators to come up with their own definitions of 'floating', test them in a variety of different situations, and then revise their thinking. The facilitators gave no clues as to whether the definitions were right or wrong. For the author, who went through school knowing that there was a right or wrong answer to just about everything, that the teacher knew what it was and that students who got all the answers right were the good learners, this was a very frustrating experience. Back at school, he consciously made an effort to reduce his 'That's right' or 'Not right' responses and instead used phrases such as 'That's interesting, tell me about it' and 'What about this case?' The dynamics of the classroom changed; the children began actively listening to each other and comparing what they heard with their own understandings. Some of the serial 'wallflowers' began to contribute ideas. The children were prepared to put forward their theories to each other without the dreaded 'right' or 'wrong' response from their peers or their teacher. [Author abstract, ed]

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