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Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Improve Nonfiction Reading with the Berkeley Protocol

Eddie Perez, whose work as a Graduate Student Instructor (GSI) in the Department of Political Science at Berkeley earned him the Outstanding GSI and Teaching Effectiveness Award, developed this set of reading questions for his graduate students at Berkeley. He used these questions both as a protocol for student reading and as a formative assessment.

Learning to apply this protocol to complicated texts will improve students' ACT and SAT reading scores. What's good for Berkeley is probably good for our students too.

The Berkeley Protocol
  1. What does the article say?
  2. What does it mean?
  3. And why does it matter?
  4. What is the question--the problem or puzzle--being asked in this article?
  5. What is the author's main argument or thesis?
  6. What claims does the author present to support his or her thesis?
  7. What are the author's conclusions?
  8. On what assumptions does the author's main argument rest?
  9. Is the argument persuasive?
  10. What evidence does the author use to support the argument?
  11. What evidence is omitted?
  12. Do you agree with the author's assumptions? Why or why not?
  13. What criticisms can be made of the author's argument?

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Common Sense Blocks Learning

Poems must rhyme.
Good writers are born, not made.
Paintings must be photo realistic.
Acquired characteristics are inherited.
Heavier objects fall faster than lighter ones.
Thinking and writing are two separate things.
The difference between summer and winter is determined by the earth’s distance from the sun.

Wrong, such “common sense” understandings of the world often lead our students astray. Students use these misconceptions to understand ideas presented in our classes. All too often students retrofit new ideas with their original misconceptions. Students may even reject ideas they see as being contrary to their initial beliefs.

A keen example of retrofitting:

“The world is flat.” + “The world is round” = “The world is shaped like a pizza.”

These misconceptions don’t disappear by telling students they’re wrong. In fact these misconceptions represent existing neuronal networks; therefore, to change a misconception we literally have to change our students’ brains! To do this we have to start where they are, not where we are.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

What Parents and Teachers Can Learn from Richard Feynman

I'm a big fan of Richard Feynman. Parents, teachers, administrators, and students can learn a lot from one of the most gifted minds of the 20th century. The best part is you don't have to be a scientist to appreciate his wisdom. Feynman was not only a brilliant physicist but a gifted storyteller as well. Listen to him describe how his father instilled a love of learning in him. Listen to what he has to say about algebra curriculums. Listen to a genius and learn about fostering curiosity and a love of learning in all our students.

Don't run out of word bags.

Steve Jobs is a Great Teacher

Who is on your faculty?


Stay hungry. Stay foolish.

Zappa was a Great Teacher

This clip from CNN in 1986 proves that Frank Zappa understood the fundamentals of debate and argumentation, but what makes this interesting is his belief in American youths and his fear of an America slipping into a fascist theocracy.

Visionary? You decide.