Task 4 Critique or Inquiry
I was very interested watching Pershan’s analysis of Khan Academy, it is interesting that as a teacher he is really quite scathing of Khans methods. Despite having been quite positive about Khan Academy in the past, I find myself agreeing with so much of what he said. Does that mean that I have completely changed my mind about Khan? At this point I don’t really think so.
As Pershan points out Khan does very much replicate what can be perceived as ‘wrong’ with western teaching methods, spoon feeding us mathematics very much on the basis of ‘if you have a problem like this, you do this, this and this and the answer is this.’ Retrospectively I still think this has a place on the peripherals of teaching, more specifically as a revision tool after a level of understanding has been developed. Used when we need reminding of certain processes or methodology within mathematics and if I look back at the way I have used it in the past this is exactly what it has been. There is little room for proactive problem solving and development of ideas on an individual basis and it is this that I am beginning to find a little disturbing.
Time and again we see the arguments for relational verses instrumental learning (Skemp) and similarly functional, procedural and conceptual learning (Willingham) surely it is a combination of everything, a balance within the classroom that most benefits the student. It is dangerous to lean towards just one concept, putting all our eggs in one basket as it were, which is what I believe Khan does and to a certain extent what Blair proposes (albeit to the other extreme.)
Although I found Blair’s article hard going it did contain some really interesting concepts and ideas and some practical proposals with regards to replacing current teaching methods that allow more conceptual/ relational learning within the classroom. I agree with his arguments against sequential learning but how do we truly combat this within the educational environment. Unfortunately society/ government dictates that we have some kind of formalised ‘examination’ in order to measure levels of understanding. This in itself undermines Blairs teaching proposals.
Just this week I was observing a class in which the teacher had an entire lesson based on problem solving, encouraging the children to come up with an answer in collaboration with their peers. There was more than one correct answer to each problem and many ways to get there, yet the children were all fixated on what was correct, perhaps a little daunted by being pushed outside their comfort zone and were desperate for validation. I am beginning to wonder if introducing such fundamental changes in the way we teach at secondary level is even viable and actually what we need to do is look at how we teach children from the very beginning of their educational journey, in reception. I don’t know – it is just something to think about!