Writing is Hard: Blogging as a Teacher

Writing is Hard

I did not realize how little I wrote as a teacher, until I wrote the first post for this blog.  

I majored in History in university. This entailed two things: reading, and writing. Yeah, sometimes there was discussion and presentations, but if you were to make a pie chart of how I spent my time, that slice would be the size I should take during Thanksgiving, rather than the slice I actually do. Most of my time was spent pouring over primary and secondary sources at the library, and writing about what I read.

So, when I sat down to write that first post, I faced the uncomfortable realization that teaching entailed little writing, and that my writing skills had deteriorated as a result. It was far harder than I remembered.

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Knowledge Series Part 7: In Conclusion

Changing My Mind

It is hard to change your mind. Very hard.

When presented with information that disagrees with your point of view, it is easy to feel attacked. I recognize that process in myself, when I receive feedback on, well, anything. Initially defensive and resentful, I often need to let the ideas cook before I’m willing to acknowledge I’m not perfect.

Studies completed in the 1970s at Stanford first exposed how unreasonable people could be. Once a particular view was formed, it was very resistant to change, even when the evidence that originally formed the view was shown to be false.

This is partly physiological, as the two sources linked above show. When we are faced with information that supports our point of view, we get a surge of dopamine, a rush of pleasure. When we are faced with information that contradicts our point of view, the same part of our brain responsible for pain is activated.

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I Read an Entire Textbook on Cognitive Psychology; This is What I Learned

I’ve kind of become a cognitive psychology addict, ever since I stumbled upon the work of Daniel Willingham. And then edu-blogger after edu-blogger, discussing the implications for classroom teaching, and others who are active on social media. I was boggled that nowhere in my teaching training was this really addressed, beyond the requirement of an introductory psychology course, too broad to be of any use.

And yet, I maintained a little skepticism. Science can be filtered through lenses and put to particular purposes. Did the field of cognitive psychology agree with how its work was being interpreted? How did these blog posts and tweets fit in the context of the field? Was there other information relevant to teaching and learning that I was missing?

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Meditations on Micro-Credentials

I recently stumbled upon micro-credentials, an interesting new approach to professional development. One thing that has stood out to me before about professional development is the lack of follow-up; to have, say, two days of workshops on holding reading conferences and using mentor texts, but never returning to that idea again. How can a school ensure that teachers get the most out of professional development? That money spent on PD is worth the opportunity cost? That teacher time spent listening to presentations improves student learning more than that same time being spent on designing instruction and reviewing assessments?

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