Marian Mc Carthy - Introducing Teaching for Understanding - Generic Presentation - 6th Sept 2013 1

Introducing Teaching for
Marian McCarthy, Ionad Bairre, The Teaching and Learning Centre , UCC
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Getting Started: Teaching for
 The Project Zero Exercise:
 Think about the following questions: on your own
and then with a partner
 What do I understand really well?
 How did I come to that understanding?
 How do I know I understand it?
 Feedback : group response and discussion
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Reflecting on this exercise
MMc-Reflective Questions :
What kind of a process is learning in the above?
What does understanding look like?
What are the implications of this exercise for how we
 What are its implications for how our students learn?
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What is Understanding?
Chap 2: TFU, Wiske (1998)
 Knowledge, skill and understanding are the stock in
trade of education- What conception of these
underwrites what happens in schools?
 Knowledge is information on tap
 Skills are routine performances on tap
 But understanding calls for more than reproduction
or routine
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Putting understanding up front...
 “Understanding is a matter of being able to do a
variety of thought-demanding things with a topic
– like explaining, finding evidence and examples,
generalising, applying, analogising, and
representing the topic in a new way.
Understanding is being able to carry out a variety
of “performances” that show one’s
understanding of a topic and at the same time,
advance it”.
 D. Perkins and T. Blythe, “Putting Understanding Up Front” in
Educational Leadership, 1994.
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Defining understanding (Chapter 2, Perkins, in
Wiske, TfU: Linking Research with Practice )
 Understanding is the ability to think and act flexibly
with what one knows.
 An understanding of a topic is a “flexible
performance capability”
 learning for understanding is like learning a flexible
performance- learning to hold a good conversation,
to improvise jazz- rather than rote learning
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 Learning facts can be a crucial backdrop to learning
for understanding, but learning facts is not learning
for understanding
 This performance view of understanding contrasts
with the prominent representational/mental image
view of understandings as things possessed, rather
than performance capabilities
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The Representational View
 In casual speech, phrases like “I see what you mean”,
“I see the point”, “I see through you”, “I see the
answer” testify to a firm link in folk psychology
between perception and understanding. Therefore,
understanding- as- seeing requires achieving a mental
representation that captures what is to be
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Implications of representational
 Understanding lies in possession of the right mental
structure or representation. Performances are part of
the picture but simply in consequence of having the
right representation. A flexible performance
capability is a symptom. It does not constitute the
understanding but simply signals possession of an
appropriate image..
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The performance view
 Understanding is seen as lying in the performance
capability itself, which depending on the case may or
may not be supported by representations
 Understanding performances go beyond rote and
routine- they challenge
 They do not undermine the importance of basic
knowledge and skill-we need these
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Why performance over
representational view?
 We can have a mental model of something without
understanding it
 A mental model is not enough for understanding
simply because it does not do anything by itself
 For performances that show understanding a person
must operate on or with a model-must manipulate
and interpret it =runnable
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A performance view: contd...2
 No one views acquiring a complex performance as a
matter of “getting it”
 Performances acquire attention, practice, refinement.
 Performances involve multiple aspects that need
careful and artful coordination.
 Developing understanding = attaining a repertoire of
complex performances
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A performance view: 3
 Attaining understanding is less like acquiring
something and more like learning to act flexibly
 in this model, teachers less in the role of informers
and testers and more in that of facilitators or coaches.
Their challenge is one of choreographing
performance experiences that constantly extend
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A performance view: 4
 Though teachers acting in the performance model may
well give a lecture or grade a test, these are supportive,
not central, activities.
 The main agenda is arranging, supporting, and
sequencing performances of understanding.
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PZ Classroom, Harvard (1998) & Perrone (2000)
Lessons for new teachers: Generative Topics:
 Central to the discipline
 Exciting to students and
 Accessible to students
 Multiple connections,
think points and entry
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 These topics give you
the big picture - the key
ideas in your field
around which lessons
can be organised
 History: Revolution
 English:Stereotypes
 Science: Evolution
 Business: Money
Understanding Goals
 Publicly state what
teachers want students
to understand
 State as explicit
statements or open
ended questions
 Explicitly link to UP’s and
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 Science: “Students will
understand why some
things sink and others
 Democracy: “Students
will understand the
relationship between
rights and
Performances of Understanding
 Active engagement by
students that develops
and demonstrates
understanding of one or
more goals
 varied, complex and
often collaborative
 sequenced purposefully
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 These challenge
stereotypes, and rigid
 DTS: Build a character
sketch of X in a key
scene, focusing on
props, costume design,
set design and lighting.
Ongoing assessment
 Clear,public criteria tied
to U Goals
 Formal and informal
assessment tied to each
 Varied sources: self,
peer, teachers
 Indicates progress and
informs planning
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 Any discipline: “Students
brainstorm a list of
questions about a
particular topic, before
they begin to study it.
They review the list
regularly and identify
which questions they
have answered”.
TFU framework….
 “At first glance the framework seems simple and rather
obvious. Five years of collaborative research have
demonstrated that this framework is more subtle than it
first appears. Teachers who have used the framework to
structure extended enquiry about their practice have
found that it stimulates them to learn more about their
subject matter, their students and their assumptions about
learning even as it guides them to make profound changes
in the way they plan, conduct, and assess their work with
students”. (M. Stone Wiske, Teaching for Understanding;
Linking Research with Practice Jossey Bass 1998)
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The Dimensions of Disciplinary
Knowledge: ( What ?)
What questions do experts ask?
What do they need to know about?
Forms (How Expressed?)
How do experts communicate?
What are the tools of the discipline?
Methods: (How?)
How do experts find out?
Purposes (Why?)
Why do they do what they do? What is the goal?
How do experts use what they know?
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Teaching for understanding
Pedagogical framework
Disciplinary Framework – the
Dimensions of understanding
 Generative Topics: central,
accessible, exciting, making
multiple connections
 Understanding Goals: public,
interrogative, holistic and specific
– the big picture
 Performances of Understanding –
what the students do to
demonstrate and develop
 Ongoing assessment : continuous
feedback to students
 Knowledge – conceptual
frameworks of the discipline
 Method – how experts think in the
 Purpose – why this topic is worth
studying – ownership
 Form – how understanding is
 “Pedagogical content knowledge”
 TfU fuses the two
 SoTL lens- grammar of practice
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SotL steps
TfU and SoTL
TfU as sotl process :
It has all the rigour of good curriculum
design and its focus on student learning
The focus is on active learning and student
performance/doing to demonstrate and
develop understanding
Methods of assessment provide raw data
for faculty re their student learning – and
for me
It helps faculty to develop a language of
practice – the naming of parts
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Embedding Sotl in the culture 
Developing a community of practice
Building trust and security over time
Creating opportunities for
discussion and reflection at each
Providing food for thought
Aligning assessment with SoTL
Providing opportunities for teachers
to publish and to gain recognition (
President’s Awards, NAIRTL grants
and publications and international
conferences )
Bibliography: key TfU/SoTL texts
 Bernstein, D., Burnett, A., Goodburn, A & Savory, P. (2006). Making Teaching and
Learning Visible: Course Portfolios and the Peer Review of Teaching. Bolton, MA:
Anker Publishing Co.
 Blythe, T. (1999) The Teaching for Understanding Guide
 Cross, K. P. (1996). Classroom Research: Implementing the Scholarship of Teaching.
San Francisco: Jossey- Bass.
 Hetland, L. (2002). Introduction to TfU video resources, Harvard: Project Zero
Classroom, 1-5.
 Hutchings, P. (ed.), (1998a). The Course Portfolio: How Faculty Can Examine Their
Teaching to Advance Practice and Improve Student Learning, Washington, DC:
American Association for Higher Education (AAHE).
 McKinney, K. (2004). The scholarship of teaching and learning: Past lessons,
current challenges and future visions, in C. Wehlburg & S. Chadwick- Blossey
(eds.) To Improve the Academy: Vol 22. Resources for Faculty, Instructional and
Organizational Development (pp.3- 19). Bolton, MA: Anker.
 McKinney, K. & Jarvis, P. (2009) Beyond lines on the CV: Faculty applications of
their SoTL research. IJSoTL, Vol.3. No 1.
 Shulman, L (2004) Teaching as Community Property: Essays on Higher Education
 Wiske, M. (1998) Teaching for Understanding: Linking Research with Practice
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