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Brain and Behavior Institute 2008 Reflection

LuisanaT's picture

This institute’s main goal of familiarizing K-12 teachers about neurological and behavioral situations to allow them to make useful educational implications was without a doubt, a complete success. But it is important to point out that a lot of participating teachers felt once they entered the institute is an uneven balance between the science they were learning and the educational importance they were receiving; many participants thought that there was not enough focus on what everything they have discussed on the Brain suggests for education. As the teacher conducting this institute, Grobstein, it is important that you not only encourage the new and different pedagogical tools teachers learn here but also enforce the value in recognizing slight social and mental differences in individuals. For the way in which the approach and attitude of everyone in the classroom is interpreted by the teacher can provide an outstanding amount of information for him/her to accommodate even more to their student and their student’s learning habits.

Another thing Professor Grobstein should keep in the back of his mind when conducting his lectures/discussions is the fact that the teachers in this case, are more students than anything else. For these (once students) teachers who are now participating in the Brain and Behavior Institute have a tendency to strive for concrete, tangible answers in professional development workshops to better their pedagogy. So newcomers to the Brain and Behavior Institute, enter and immediately become skeptical about and begin to reconsider their involvement in the workshop, creating tension between the participants’ expectations and Professor Grobstein’s inclinations regarding the institute.

One way to resolve this discrepancy, however, would be by placing, from the very beginning, more emphasis on the social ramifications that have come from disregarding such things like neurodiversity, student behavior, and most importantly, the teacher’s behavior. This institute lacked in explicitly addressing the great concern surrounding teacher’s behavior and especially their subconscious behavior towards students. Honing in on these kinds of concerns that typically go unnoticed in the classroom would bring the institute closer to being a non-conventional and valuable professional development workshop for teachers to take advantage of. A conscious effort needs to be made from the very start to make the participating teachers aware of what it is the institute is attempting to achieve and ensure them that it is something worth experiencing.

With all of that said, I do have to commend Grobstein for recognizing this discrepancy during the institute, as opposed to sometime after, and correcting himself accordingly. Not only did he recognize it, he admitted to this fault and brought it to the attention of the entire class, simultaneously incorporating it effectively into that days lecture. Grobstein made this experience applicable to one of the overall purposes of the institute, the betterment of teaching and learning by acknowledging this same discrepancy typically being found between the students’ expectations/motivations entering the classroom and the teacher’s own intentions/motivations.

One portion of the institute that was not executed well, straying away from the primary goal of the institute was during the initial use of the different computer programs. Grobstein’s introduction to Scratch and Netlogo was very limiting, failing to include some important components and suggestions for education. This prevented the participating teachers from completely exploring all of its educational implications. They became thoroughly rapt up in creating their own project that the participants did not fully acknowledge the importance of learning how it was they were creating it. For with a more complete understanding of the steps the teachers were taking, it would be easier for them to teach and encourage their own students to learn how to use computer programs and create their own projects.

Simply throwing the two computer programs at the participants also overlooked the fact that these programs include a library which holds an astounding array of projects previously made by other users. This can be a very useful free tool for some teachers that have less experience with computers to create their own project for their classroom because it can be integrated immediately into their lesson if not function as a stepping stone for a new project for a future lesson. For this reason, I strongly suggest introducing the previous projects available in the library before giving the participants the rest of the day to explore the programs to most effectively learn and utilize the computer programs. Mentioning this can also help resolve the impending issue of available time the participants have to create something valuable during the short two weeks allotted for this institute. For the time given to toy with and “master” both computer programs to not only think of an interactive, open-ended, transactional computerized activity but also create it from scratch was not ample enough for all of the participants.

Speaking of the time allotted for the participants exploration, the timing of the introduction to all of computer tools during the afternoon I found to be awkwardly placed. There was typically a rather large gap of time between the end of lunch and Grobstein’s mini-lesson regarding the computer (serendip, blogs, and computer programs). This disrupts the participants’ works in progress and because of that makes them less likely to pay close attention and make use of the current information immediately. The institute can be more effective with its time if Grobstein is more aware of when it is the participating class generally returns from their lunch break or if simply the times given for the duration of the lunch break were more enforced.