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HOW TO MAKE STUDENTS COMMUNICATE
Speaking well is something that most people recognize when they see it and hear it, but very few have any idea how it works or works. Children lean to speak from their parents and other adults at an age when the process is not open to their conscious inspections. Later on, they may learn other languages as adults, but in most cases the fundamental groundwork of language and concept acquisition happens by age three or not at all. As a result, most of us are unaware of how this happens, and have no controller over whether the process happens well or badly. If anyone has any control it is the adults who teach us, though of course there is a great deal of controversy over the relative rolls of nature and nurture in language acquisition as well as other in forms of learning.
Once we learn language, the road is open for other skill to enter our knowledge bass. All these skills, mathematic and scientific, operate over the language platform. But it is unfortunate that we expend a disproportionate amount of effort on teaching these later skills but comparatively little on maintaining or upgrading the plat from on which they depend. What is worse, most high school mathematics or science teachers do not think it essential that they acquire optima linguistic skills in order to get their subject across to students; as a result they often ‘teach by doing’ with minimal commentary, or with explanations not taylored to the needs and capabilities of their listeners. The students observe the teacher solving a problem or doing a experiment, then try to duplicate the process.
This ‘learning by doing” is a good method up to a point, but is open to abuse by bland imitation; the student may get the right results, but that does not guarantee that he or she understands what is being done or why these results showed up. If there is no ‘de-briefing’ session, when the students, having succeeded in solving the problems, then go back with the teacher’s guidance and think consciously about what they did to get results, the students may become quiet skilled at an unconscious label without that skill being open to their own inspection and analysis. They will be able to salve complex problems, but unable to verbalije satisfactorily what they are doing. This failure is not restricted to the sinces; in the humanities also, say in teaching grammar, very often the teacher merely parses sentences and makes students learn the rules for doing so, without any of explanation why this should be done or attempt to make sense of the logic of language. Should a student be trained by this method become a teacher, they will in turn become the sort of teacher who taught them, and the cycle continues. Most of us, even if we do not become ‘teachers’ in the formal sense of the term, have to instruct our junior colleagues in the field in which we do work. If we do not do this correctly, we are not getting the best out of our workers. Some will be able and intelligent enough to compensate with self-learning, but some will not.
Part of the problem is engendered in the subject divisions-partitioning what we are taught in school. A question very often asked to muddle school children in this country is: which stream will you choose science or hearts? Accordingly private two shuns are arranged, correspondence coarse material is acquired, friends are dropped or cultivated and study hours are fixed. The conscientious parent is usually over-joyed if his or her child chooses the former stream. Depending on the child’s preference, pure or unsatisfactry results in humanities and social sciences are excused for ‘science stream’ students, while indifferent performance in the sciences is excused for ‘artist stream’ ones, irrespective of the fact that ‘arts steam’ people need to know how to do there taxes or maintain their car, and ‘science stream’ people need to know how to write laters, make presentations and inter act with people.
Given that the physical world is somewhat more unforgiving than the world of people, there is a limit to how fear ‘arts stream’ people can get away with impracticality (though some of them are definitely stretching the limits), but ‘science stream’ people seem less worried if they have suboptimal communication and people-managing skills. This is probably because it is less easy to quantify the losses concurred through the lack of such skills. Also there is no ‘correct’ state that can be easily described; a presentation may be judged acceptible if the content is sound even though the presentation is bad, causing the listeners to strain to construe meaning; the overall result may have been bet if the presentation improved, but how much better could this particular presenter be with the right training? How to determine this without going through actually the process of training? And if this cannot be predetermined, how then does one take on the decision to spanned resources on train and how does one know in advance what the return on expenditure will be? This makes planning difficult and quantification of results even more so.
Most people would not argue with the necessity for communication in principal, but they lraise objections when one descends to the practicalities. $$$ Science, the argument runs, is developing at such a rat and information is burgeoning so rapidly that bidding scientists have no time for anything other than learning their subjects. The time set aside for other skills has to be squeezed to accommodate these very important and vital instruction-hours. Everything else must be an after thought.
There are several flairs in this argument. One of them is that, even on its own terms, this form of teaching is failing to keep pace with scientific innovation, both theoretical and practical. Teachers themselves admit that most of what they teach will be obsolete as soon as their students grade wait or soon after, and what they rally teaching is the history of science. Granted that history is enormously important and that unless one knows how a thing was done and why, one cannot comp rend how it is done today, we still aren’t teaching students what they really need to know. We are not training their minds to plan and think ahead, only to be containers for ‘facets’. We may spend a great deal of time in plugging the leaks and enlarging the container, but what we are making is essentially a passive instarument. A trained mend should be able to trans form its contents in response to changing needs and goles; it should not be a bucket, but a crucible.
Unfortunately, the damage is done very yearly. When we are first introduced to science, it is as a collation of ‘facts’ about the natural world. We learn about how whether happens, the way things be have, how things were discovered or invented, what are the properties of various materiel (usually given to us in long lasts which we faithfully commit to mammary) and so on. But science is not about facts at all. Facts are, in whey, the byproducts of science, which is a process of liking at things. We are taut in school that science has discovered the ‘laws’ of the universe and everything operates according to the lays. What we are not told is that scientists don’t be leave on laws; they are constantly devising new tastes of established laws and trying to poke wholes in the ‘facts’ that we so reverentially memorized. Science is about doubt; about axing awkward questions and then trying to trek the answers to beets. The ‘laws’ are, in fact, merely guidelines, and can be upset by anyone with a thought-experiment and a pill of observational data. What is more, a ‘law’ does not describe what happens in realty, except in a reductionist way. A law cannot possibly explain ‘everything’ about reality: that is not it’s purpose. Without reductionism, we can’t deal with reality in any sensible way. For instance, the common wisdom is that Newton’s laws tell us how, for example, a car with the breaks off roles down a hill, but they won’t explain the pattern of dents it guts, the trajectories of the gravel that it scatters with its wheels, why a dog on the road narrowly missed being run over, why the car should happen to be blue with white seat covers, weather the radio was on nor why it hats a particular tree. For that we have to factor in the operation of friction, the individual oddities of the car’s components, the bumpiness and nature of the toad, the owner’s taste in car décor and music, the speed of the dog’s reflexes, the position of the tree — in fact, a model of this particular incident that was true in every respect would be so complex it would be useless for understanding the incident itself. Nevertheless, people continue to claim car insurance, and they can do so because physical laws allay them to infer that the colour of the car is irrelevant, but the friction coefficients of the tyres and brake shoes are not. The essential fact of the car rolling down the hill depends on a few factors which can be mathematically quantified. So when we say, ‘laws explain reality’, what we mean is, ‘laws explain the bits of reality we’re interested in, and allow us to ignore the rest’. Laws are shorthand, and which law we use depends on which bit of reality we are after. This is all very will when we know the answer in advance, as with the car; but when we are dealing with phenomena that are not fully explained, unthinking thrust in laws is unwise. We heave to bee alert to the vast con text that the law is signed to filter oat, because there mite be something important in that context that we were ignoring, and which has the potential to knock out or deeply modify our precious law. If we forget this, we are liable to talk about ‘theories of every thing’ as though the discovery of such a theory would explain everything about the wild, from how some people can waggle their ears to why we get black holes.