Thursday, October 23, 2014

Confusing Pedagogy

Here's the Chronicle article I mentioned about Derek Muller's research on teaching through confusion. It would probably be worth tracking down his actual research, for those of you working on related issues.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Miseducation of Men

We have been discussing how an educator might shape student's character, and whether it is appropriate to do this. We might consider the matter from the other side -- for we frequently shape character in very unhealthy ways, as illustrated by this Buzz Bissinger article in Sunday's Times Perhaps we can at least learn from this how not to educate our guardians... 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Nudges and Autonomy

We spoke earlier in the semester about Thaler and Sunstein's notion of "libertarian paternalism," whereby subtle structural details are manipulated to help people make choices that we think are better for them (my favorite example is an "opt-out" rather than an "opt-in" employee savings plan, which automatically signs you up unless you say otherwise. This produces higher rates of personal retirement savings, which most people say they want, without actually eliminating any options). This idea has many educational applications, and also raises some concerns. Here is a critical discussion by philosopher Jeremy Waldron of Sunstein's latest work:
I'm interested in this kind of thinking because it might give some concrete content to Plato's and Rousseau's notions of civic education, and the way legislative power, at its best, might subtly educate rather than threaten or punish. I'm also interested in the limits of nudging strategies for addressing structural problems.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Evaluating Progress

I'm still intrigued by the notion that, at least in principle, what we ought to be evaluating is not ability but progress. For one thing, it feels more individualized to each student's needs, and it also feels more egalitarian, indifferent to prior advantages. My intuition about this feels pretty strong, but I'm well aware that even my strongest intuitions sometimes turn out to be mistaken. Would someone please give me all the best reasons against evaluating students on their improvement (leaving aside, for now, the practical difficulties such a procedure might present)?

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Excellent Sheep

Turning our attention to higher education, Christopher Benfey reviews William Deresiewicz's new book (an expansion of his famous essay in The American Scholar, which you can read here: I don't know if you will be able to read Benfey's review without a subscription, but here's the link: Last I checked, we still carry the New York Review of Books (not to be confused with the New York Times book review) in hard copy in the library.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Character, Politcs, and Education

I've been thinking about how to make Book VIII relevant to our educational focus, and this commentary from Sunday's times gave me an idea (I'm not a huge fan of the author, and the piece is unsatisfying in several ways, but I think there's something to learn here)

Perhaps Plato is on to something with the idea that we start from the limitations of our inborn/parent instilled natures, and that we can do much (but not everything) with this raw material given well-designed learning protocols that help us think for ourselves. But because our innate/formed natures are not infinitely trainable, our characters and the quality of the city can easily decline.