CogSciSci2018/Mark Hardman

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When planning a science lesson, teachers often consider what they want pupils to learn and then select and design activities that convey the concepts or skills being promoted. However, in recent years there has been a theoretical shift away from seeing concepts as ‘mental entities’ which can be conveyed through activities, and instead recognising that learning involves the specifics of embodied cognition and interaction between people, texts, images, equipment and the broader learning environment. The question then becomes whether we can give a more specific account of how pupils actually learn, and what they learn from. This workshop will highlight some of the issues with how learning is currently characterised and then report the early findings of video studies into what pupils actually learn from in science classroom, and what experienced teachers do to promote this learning.

difficult to define what a concept actually is! dualism, guidaing practice all make teaching concepts hard

Bruner/ Piaget- constructivism - don’t throw all the really good ideas from this research out

Graham et al 2013 resultant forces

misconceptions - resultant forces and motion etc. might get a question right without really understanding how they got there

theory: cognitive conflict (mcCloskey 1983) but this DiSessa gives different view also 1983 Graham 2013 and Mercer 2007- pupils respond to social context


Potvin 2015

So many theories about how to teach concepts. Partly because we’re not sure what they are.

Concerned by “pedagogic vagueness”- ie teach about forces, do something to do with forces, then hope that the pupils gain undestanding

Learning is associated with memory memory is the residue of thought but… not all memories are equal- must be meaningful, repeated, associated with images? what causes thoughts?

cognition doesn’t just happen in brain?- in subject, classroom, body (Eg. movement/ speech)

John-Paul Riordan What do expert teachers do?

ASTs: microteaching, explained thinking afterwards when watching video (they didn’t know!! videoing and retrospective reflection/ debriefing is really useful!)

common themes: re-direct, clarify, transfer/ bouncing, support, use (and stop using) activities

it takes a lot of listening to work out what a pupil is saying and understanding (or misunderstanding) a concept

expert teachers are aware of their tacit knoweledge, and know when and how to employ it or refer to it


HAve to be careful with models. Sometimes students remember details of models (episodic memory) - can help or hinder memory and understanding of concept

Difference between expert and novice teachers can be just how they (tacitly) modify and develop and change models and explanations as they go.

Jerome Bruner- Acts of Meaning

Stationary/ stationery “joke” repeated in different lessons… so use of humour can be important

correcting is instant in teachers (and quick) whereas feedback might not be

context is important (eg. CSI for chromatography)

Pupils learn through specific models and representations episiodal becomes semantic memory pupils continually generate narrative. sometimes wrong! DI best for absolute novices? But not necessarily later as you want them to build schema and understanding etc. need to feed back and correct. give different problems If you make it meaningful (jokes/ context/ relationships/ value/ emotions) this can help

so cog sci can be integrated with constructivist view?

NB this is all exploratory research at the moment….

Tiangulate: modelling, narrative, meaning (Gemma)


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