Assisting the Learner to Think Like a Professional
I recently attended a workshop entitled “Beyond Assessing for Knowledge” presented by Kimberly Tanner whose research agenda is:
To understand how people learn science and how teachers and scientists can collaborate to make science teaching and learning in classrooms – Kindergarten through college – more like how scientists work (http://biology.sfsu.edu/people/kimberly-tanner).
The key points that I extracted from the talk are:
- To what extent do current assessments yield insight into the development of “Thinking Like a (Professional in the Field Being Studied)?”
- The problem with many assessments is they measure what students know not what they can do with that knowledge.
- How can instructional strategies help learners develop expertise in the content area?
Dr. Tanner presented her research about the development of expertise among graduating undergraduate biology students. Simply stated, she used card sorting to analyze expertise. She got some baseline data using biology faculty and non-biology freshman. Obviously, the biology faculty far outscored the non-biology freshman. Then this same task was given to graduating biology students. The predication was that the graduating biology students would more closely match the faculty, but the results indicated that that they were only a few percentage points above the non-biology freshman.
The results don’t surprise me as I believe this is indicative of the problem we not only have in higher education, but also in K-12 environments. Students learn the basic surface knowledge related to the content presented in their classes. Their test scores often indicate as such. But what does testing students on the lowest levels of Blooms taxonomy – knowing, possibly understanding – really tell us? What will the students know, understand, and use outside of the classroom related to the content taught? How will their ways of being and interacting in the world be different because of these learning experiences?
This information is not new nor earth shattering. I have a hunch that similar results would occur if this research was used to assess students’ knowledge about most any content area. There are several key elements or questions that are pertinent to this discussion:
- What is the ultimate goal of teaching and learning? For students to know something on the surface or for students to be able to think and do something differently?
- What is the clarion call from the research like Dr. Kimmer’s?
- How should and can instructional strategies be reformed to help learners think like the professionals in their respective fields?
- What types of assessment measure deep learning?
One strategy proposed by Angela Maiers in Who Are Their Learning Heroes — and Why? is to have learners build a dream team of thinkers and doers, a team of their heroes and explore not only their knowledge base but also their –
- work ethic
- study habits
- thought process
- energy focus
- other behavioral practices
I believe that a focus in Passion-Based Learning can also lead to deep learning. I discuss this more in PBL is Passion-Based Learning: Show Me Your Passion.