Monday, September 22, 2008

Private Universe

The film clip that we viewed in class today, Private Universe, was fascinating.  In it, there are various examples of individuals being taught concepts or ideas, but then holding onto their previously held "private" beliefs.  One of the interesting questions that was raised in class was "How do we tell people that they are wrong?".

That question seemed critical so I found myself thinking about it for the rest of our discussion.  As I listened to the comments and suggestions that were made it seemed to me like our first mistake might be assuming that we always have to tell a person that a belief that they have is incorrect.  After hearing some of the suggestions that were made and seeing how this happened in the clip I decided that a better alternative would be to help individuals see that the beliefs they are holding need to be modified.  That way they are coming to that conclusion on their own rather than having it forced on them (which I think generally leads to rebellion or discouragement--like the red-faced teacher in the clip).  

It probably isn't possible to have learners see their errors in every case, but we could do a lot more to place learners in environments and engage them in activities that could help them uncover their private beliefs and see how they match up (or do not match up) with the ideas of others (classmates, the instructor, experts, observed reality, etc.).   Aaron mentioned that rubrics can be a way of doing this when it comes to writing.  A novice writer could compare their writing to samples of more expert writing and an accompanying rubric that illustrates what a "skilled performance" looks like.  This will probably not lead to tremendously improved writing overnight, but having the opportunity to see how more advanced writers communicate could go a long way to helping a novice improve their performance.  I think the same thing can be seen in athletics when coaches tape their athletes performances and then review the tapes with the athlete so that they can actually see what their performance looks like; this may also include watching footage of more skilled performances.  I think that this is especially common in highly technical sport-skills (e.g. the discus & javelin throws, swimming strokes, gymnastics, etc.).  

A personal experience that I had that I think is related to this concept was a time-log activity I saw used in a St. Dev. 158 course taught here at BYU.  First-semester students participating in a Freshman Academy learning community were asked to, on a sample weekly planner sheet, map out how they would use their time in an "ideal week" and then were asked to track their actual time usage over the course of a week and then compare it to the ideal.  This was eye-opening for most students because they were not aware of how they were using their time (usually it was quite ineffectively).  This changed their "belief" about how they used their time and was much more effective in initiating change in time-use than I believe a "time-use lecture" might have been or if a teacher or peer mentor had tried to convince the student that they needed to change the way they organized their time.

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