Connect, extend, challenge: teacher teaching.

Reflection on Teaching and Learning Assignment

I love the work done on and the process of making thinking visible.  I am intimately connected to this process because of the great deal of time spent studying (evolutionary) cognitive development and metacognition.  In conjunction with continuously practicing capturing metadata, the understanding of cognitive behaviors has trained me to spend a greater deal of time thinking about thinking and thinking about how and what others are thinking. The switch in perspective is akin to a switch in discipline.

It is the intersection of disciplines and the development of interdisciplinary resources that has been my area of focus. The process and need for taking the body of knowledge in one discipline and showing it to teachers in another discipline so that the intersections are more apparent is, it seems to me, a very similar problem that a student faces in learning something in depth in one class but not yet being able to move that learning to a new context.

I face a version of this same problem as an instructional designer working to translate face to face course to the online format and in developing courses in which someone can take their training from a class into the workplace. This issue of transfer of knowledge has been fairly well studied, and an easy resource for review that I enjoyed is Valerie Strauss’ article in the Washington Post called The Real Stuff of Learning (  The links are all worth looking at, and the article gives a good overview of approaches that might be taken to not only connect learning to prior knowledge but to extend that knowledge into a different space and a different problem.

Also as an instructional designer, I have had to practice approaching everything as a student; to work as if I knew nothing about a subject in order to question the subject matter experts so that they could make clear the goals of their body of knowledge, the connections between subjects and topics, and to get the SME to really focus on how one area connects to another to make a course flow logically and information to holistically develop into knowledge. Though it is older, I believe that Robert M. Gagné’s work on instructional design – when refocused to a learner/student centric model – is very informative for getting students in any context to extend their learning. As an example, I would draw attention to Integrative goals for Instructional Design by Gagné and Merrill (

Taking in this course and the course readings has pushed me further into the role of teacher and made me focus on re-purposing the questioning techniques I already thought I knew and opening them up to encompass not just acting like a student but actively focusing on listening to students and on the probable curricula I will need to design and or tailor/implement as a math teacher and not a research librarian.  I spent some time really looking into my own situation knowing that I could not be alone in making teaching more of an emphasis in my work.  I found and really appreciated Laura Bewick and Sheila Corrall’s paper “Developing librarians as teachers: A study of their pedagogical knowledge” (PDF: I feel exceedingly lucky to have taken my studies in librarianship toward instructional design and the digital landscape as it has already forced me to do even more pedagogical training than would normally be considered sufficient for a subject librarian.

I now have a much wider world of resources to review and try out (and fail with) and re-evaluate. I know I already will use more “explanation game” ( nonetheless the connect, extend, and challenge routine. I have largely been consumed with much higher level abstractions and less involved with the tactile and iconic stages of reasoning, but I am now delighted by re-evaluating some of my existing materials and attempting to translate them for much different audience; I am truly engaged by this because it is showing me areas where I only thought I knew something but did not have as fully a comprehensive grasp as I might.

I largely feel the challenge of this material in my lack of in situ teacher experience with a (my own) curriculum. I have returned to school to get my licensure for teaching in Mathematics, and I am feeling doubly challenged to get the pedagogical skills strengthened AND strengthened for a subject as notoriously disliked as maths! It is one thing to study a subject, but any study must have practice to keep it fresh, make it solid, and connect it to the real world. I am actively seeking out and developing math teaching resources that focus on real world experiences because I see that as a major disconnect in the maths education I have received and in the way that many math teachers still approach maths in k-12 education.

I am also feeling challenged with differentiated instruction and curriculum design. I have never been fully responsible for integrating this in my teaching and learning, but I am realizing it is core to being a “real” teacher in the real world.

I particularly like the following video as an example of real world, differentiated, engaged learning in mathematics, and it has served to challenge me and my thinking about what I could/might do as a math teacher.

And, finally, as I am challenged by differentiated instruction, I am reading and rereading Linda Pigott Robinson’s article Who Cares? to help me inform my approach to engaging across learning spectrums.