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Journal Posts for Tuesday, 3/6, following Marsha Pincus's visit

alesnick's picture

Please use this space, and Marsha can find us and join in!


alesnick's picture

Thank you, Marsha!

Your visit to class has been literally transformative.  Thank you for sharing so generously of your journey, wisdom, and knowledge.

Siobhan Hickey's picture

Extrinsic and Intrinsic Rewards

In Beyond Wiggle Room, the discussion of the student who was unmotivated by the intrinsic rewards of learning (and eventually, not by extrinsic rewards either) really struck a chord with me. I've felt some discomfort with my own relationship with learning since entering college. This has been especially prominent in my thoughts this semester, partially due to taking this class and also, generally, as I'm contemplating what it means to be heading into my senior year. While I have learned a lot from and sometimes really enjoyed my college classes, I often find it difficult to envision myself as The Learner that I saw myself as in high school. Over the past few years, I have grappled with whether my dedication as a student in high school was based in learning or achieving. I began to uncover my motivations for the work I did in high school, to name a few: perfectionism, status, and competition (if not with others, than at least with myself.) Those all sound like really big words for the fact that I think they operated somewhat behind the scenes in my mind, behind my vision of myself. Nevertheless, I think they held a great deal of power over me. I don't know if, back then, I would have opted to take a class like “Drama and Inquiry” were I offered the choice between it and a traditional academic or AP course. Reading about this course now, it makes me realize that there may have been similarly interesting courses offered in my high school of which I did not take advantage.

Thinking back like this has helped me in certain ways. I have discovered ways to channel this tendency of mine (needing to complete tasks in organized ways and wrap them up neatly) into activities that I find fulfilling. I enjoy organizational leadership roles where I can work to help others. But reading this article also made me realize that I have been too quick to dismiss “the learner” in me. Maybe that learner has been, at times, buried beneath the need for extrinsic rewards, but the occasional moments of pure joy I get when I am learning something new show me that it is still there. I think my challenge is to stick with the struggle of continuous exploration until I find not just knowledge that gives me that joy, but ways of accessing knowledge that give me that joy. My goal is, somewhat paradoxically, trying to learn how to let go of there being known, definite achievements in my education and engaging in a more “process-driven” (as it says in table 10.1 of the essay) approach. Basically, I think I need to be a little messier in order to open myself up to deeper learning. The circle of inquiry we talked about in class, as well as the intellectual autobiographies discussed in the essay, really made clear for me the importance of both reflection and looking forward as someone involved in the educational process. I think it would be a great gift to be able to come to college already holding these questions consciously in mind (Where have I come from? What motivates me? Where do I go from here?) and, ultimately, knowing that one's relationship with learning need not be static, but can appear, become hidden, grow, and/or deepen in unexpected ways.

alesnick's picture

disentangling learning and achievement

This is a really powerful post.  I appreciate the way you take off from the Pincus piece and bring it home. 

It is of utmost importance to connect with "ways of accessing knowledge that give [you] joy."  I can think of few things more important!

emmagulley's picture

There was so much about

There was so much about Marsha’s visit that resonated with me.  I’ve tried to summarize, identify, and pick apart my (obviously emotional...) reaction to her stories and ideas.  While I haven’t (yet) been able to do that, I was truly touched and, more over, intrigued by her idea of ‘inquiry based practice’ and ‘teachers as researchers.’   Sometimes I think about teachers as being in location A (a location that is “practical,” “isolated,” and/or “separated” from "modern" universities and/or research institutions) and ed researchers as being in location Z (a location that allows them to “observe” learning and classrooms without directly influencing it; a location that is “theoretical” rather than “practical.”)  I was so intrigued by her notion that, actually, it is possible for these two identities to intersect.  In some ways, it is this intersection where the “sparks go off,” not only for the teacher and her classroom, but also for prospective-educators like us, who were lucky enough to learn about it.  Marsha's visit showed me that the paths of "researcher" and "teacher" aren't necessarily separate; but rather, sometimes, happily, intertwining.  

ckeifer's picture

The Value of Errors

Something that I have been thinking about a lot throughout this course is how errors are dealt with in the classroom and personally within the student.  When reflecting on my education, I realize that I characterized error through the medical model because this is how it was viewed by most of my teachers.  It was never explicitly taught to me in this way however errors were viewed as something that should be eradicated and avoided entirely in the classroom.  Success required the lack of error.  Dissonance on this subject has arisen for me over the pasat years.  Theoretically I recognize the importance of error and I know that growth and change cannot take place without the presence of error.  Conceptually I see error as a generative tool and I believe that some of the most important lessons can be learned from times where individuals have failed.  However, I do not see a place for mistakes in the classroom as I know it.  The emphasis is put on what the student does correctly, not what the student can learn from their mistakes. 

I am very appreciative that Marsha Pincus was able to talk to our class because I found what she had to say extremely valuable and especially pertinent considering what I have been trying to balance and work through recently with respect to errors in the classroom.  The inquiry into practice model she presented was extremely helpful to me.  I think it is especially important to re-conceptualize errors as something generative and dynamic and not something limiting.

I applied her model to my own thinking about errors to see what new ideas it would create. 

Dissonance: Arose from viewing errors as purely bad in my own life as a student but disagreeing with this mindset from a philosophical/theoretical perspective after reflecting on it, doing readings for this course, and observing in my field placement classroom.

Questions: Is viewing errors with respect something that is helpful to learning? Can this b implemented in public school classrooms? Would this undermine the “failure is not an option” mindset of students/schools who are focused on test scores and getting into good colleges? How does one strike a balance between having high standards and respecting the role of errors? Finally, how do you represent the value of errors in terms of learning while still deducting points for them on evaluations?

Look Closely: I thought a lot about how I deal with error in my own learning. I’ve realized it is possible to hold myself to a high standard and allow still for error. Took a while (years) for me to get to this place but it is a healthier perspective to take than the one I had before. This is preparatory for the real world where failure is inevitable and learning to deal with it is just as important as knowing how to succeed. By making one’s students feel comfortable failing in the classroom will allow them to be more adventurous in their learning.

Searching: What are others saying? I am curious to talk to my field placement teachers about this. Others in this class reflect my thinking (or so it seems from group discussions).

Making Sense: Synthesize. Know why I think the way I do. Unfortunate that it was instilled in me and is instilled in others. Medical model is detrimental in this way.

Taking Action: apply this logic to my own learning.

Im going to work on this and consider the implications it has in different areas of my life.


Ann Dixon's picture

Getting it less wrong

The idea of progressively getting it less wrong still resonates for me years after Paul wrote about it.


Marsha Pincus's picture

Visiting your class

Thank you so much for allowing me to come to your class and share my thoughts about teaching from my current vantage point - looking back on my 34 year career. I look forward to reading your responses and seeing the issues, questions, connections to your own lives, to your readings, to your fieldwork, etc. which may have surfaced for you during and after my visit. Please feel free to address me directly here, or send me a private email if there are any questions you would like me to try to address or any other ways in which I might be helpful to you. You can reach me at