Tag Archives: pseudoteaching

Pseudoteaching Update for 3/5/2011

Three new posts have been added to the pseudoteaching page:

Pseudolearning
by Mr. K (Math Stories)
Reflections on student work that looks pretty, rather than displaying depth.

Online pseudoteaching
by Andy Rundquist (I’m not watching TV)
Despite good intentions, Andy creates a “pseudocommunity” of students in his online college course.

Technology and Pseudoteaching
by Steve Dickie (Free/Libre Open Source Science Education)
Probeware has made data collection and analysis a snap in science class. But is it pseudoteaching?

Plus: Don’t miss out on the conversation happening in the comments! Subscribe to the Aggregated Comment Feed for ALL the pseudoteaching posts in this series.

As always, we’d love for you to contribute your own examples of pseudoteaching. Just email/tweet me a link to your pseudoteaching post and I’ll add it to the series. Thanks!

Pseudoteaching Update for 3/2/2011

Three new posts have been added to the pseudoteaching page:

Going through the motions with the best intentions
by Terence Gilheany (guest post at Quantum Progress)
Religion, ethics, and history teacher Terence Gilheany writes about how pseudoteaching can crop up in the middle of discussions in humanities classes.

Pseudoteaching with a Purpose?
by Joshua Gates (Newton’s Minions)
Depending on student readiness, a lesson can be pseudoteaching for some students but not for others.

Pseudoteaching doesn’t Happen in a Vacuum
by Ed Hitchcock (Teach Science (.net))
Ed extends the pseudoteaching concept to include pseudolearning and pseudoschooling.

Plus: Don’t miss out on the conversation happening in the comments! Subscribe to the Aggregated Comment Feed for ALL the pseudoteaching posts in this series.

As always, we’d love for you to contribute your own examples of pseudoteaching. Just email/tweet me a link to your pseudoteaching post and I’ll add it to the series. Thanks!

Pseudoteaching Update for 3/1/2011

One Two new posts have been added to the pseudoteaching page:

Pseudoteaching by Inquiry by John Burk (Quantum Progress)
Is hands-on activity-based learning immune from pseudoteaching?

Oreos and Pseudoteaching by Janelle Wilson (Stretching Forward)
A yummy activity for learning the phases of the moon leaves tummies full but minds empty?

Plus: Don’t miss out on the conversation happening in the comments! Subscribe to the Aggregated Comment Feed for ALL the pseudoteaching posts in this series.

As always, we’d love for you to contribute your own examples of pseudoteaching. Just email/tweet me a link to your pseudoteaching post and I’ll add it to the series. Thanks!

Pseudoteaching Update for 2/27/2011

One new post has been added to the pseudoteaching page:

Pseudoteaching — Clayton’s Learning? by Chris Keipert (Chemistry Chris) Chris is a pre-service chemistry teacher from Sydney. In his post, he ponders why subjects like science are vulnerable to pseudoteaching

Plus: Don’t miss out on the conversation happening in the comments! Subscribe to the  Aggregated Comment Feed for ALL the pseudoteaching posts in this series.

As always, we’d love for you to contribute your own examples of pseudoteaching. Just email/tweet me a link to your pseudoteaching post and I’ll add it to the series. Thanks!

Pseudoteaching Update for 2/25/2011

One new post has been added to the pseudoteaching page:

Pseudoteaching: A Tale of Two Teas by Michal Lynch (ActiveGrade Blog)
Michal looks for PT in the social studies classroom.

Email me or tweet me your own pseudoteaching story!

Pseudoteaching Update for 2/22/2011

Two new posts have been added to the pseudoteaching page:

Pseudoteaching FAQ by John Burk (Quantum Progress)
John gives us the low down on PT.

Pseudoteaching: Laboratory Experiments by Dolores Gende (Journey in Technology)
Dolores takes on cook book labs and offers suggestions on how to make them more open-ended.

Please add your own pseudoteaching story!

Pseudoteaching: MIT Physics

What is pseudoteaching?

This term was inspired by Dan Meyer’s pseudocontext, which sought to find examples of textbook problems that on the surface seemed to be about real world problems and situations, but actually were about make believe contexts that had little connection to the real world, other than the photographs that framed the problems.

After reading many of Dan’s pseudocontext posts, John Burk and I had the idea of pseudoteaching [PT] which we have defined as:

Pseudoteaching is something you realize you’re doing after you’ve attempted a lesson which from the outset looks like it should result in student learning, but upon further reflection, you realize that the very lesson itself was flawed and involved minimal learning.

We hope that though discussion, we’ll be able to clarify and refine this definition even further. The key idea of pseudoteaching is that it looks like good teaching. In class, students feel like they are learning, and any observer who saw a teacher in the middle of pseudoteaching would feel like he’s watching a great lesson. The only problem is, very little learning is taking place.

The Scene

Take, for example, Walter Lewin’s amazing physics lectures at MIT, which are available online at MIT OpenCourseware [Mechanics | E&M].

Professor Lewin is full of energy. He clearly loves physics, and he also loves sharing it with his students. His demonstrations were thrillling. His board work was impeccable. Lewin worked hard to make it look effortless — he ran through each lecture 3 times before presenting it to students.

The Breakdown

So what happened result as the semester progressed? Attendance at his physics lectures fell 40% by the end of the term and an average of 10% of students failed Mechanics and 14% failed E&M. Surprised?

If you look past his enthusiasm and his displays of physics awesomeness, Lewin was pseudoteaching. It looks like good teaching, but he was the one doing all the talking. It looks like the students are learning, but they were just sitting there watching. It’s like trying to learn to play piano or play a sport by watching your teacher or coach. It doesn’t work well.

Ironically, it was over 30 years before Lewin’s famous lectures that the great physicist Richard Feynman realized more interactive engagement is necessary. From page xxix of Feynman’s Six Easy Pieces (a “greatest-hits” of his lectures to freshman when he taught introductory physics at Cal Tech from 1961-1963):

I think, however, that there isn’t any solution to this problem of education other than to realize that the best teaching can be done only when there is a direct individual relationship between a student and a good teacher—a situation in which the student discusses the ideas, thinks about the things, and talks about the things. It’s impossible to learn very much by simply sitting in a lecture, or even by simply doing problems that are assigned. But in our modem times we have so many students to teach that we have to try to find some substitute for the ideal. Perhaps my lectures can make some contribution. Perhaps in some small place where there are individual teachers and students, they may get some inspiration or some ideas from the lectures. Perhaps they will have fun thinking them through—or going on to develop some of the ideas further.

RICHARD P. FEYNMAN
June 1963

The Resolution

So what did MIT do after Lewin’s show-stopping lectures failed to change declining attendance and large failure rates? They created interactive learning spaces like TEAL, which stands for Technology Enhanced Active Learning. From the New York Times article “At M.I.T., Large Lectures Are Going the Way of the Blackboard”:

Instead of blackboards, the walls are covered with white boards and huge display screens. Circulating with a team of teaching assistants, the professor makes brief presentations of general principles and engages the students as they work out related concepts in small groups.

Teachers and students conduct experiments together. The room buzzes. Conferring with tablemates, calling out questions and jumping up to write formulas on the white boards are all encouraged.

For more information on TEAL, I suggest reading “Why TEAL Works” and “Lessons Learned from TEAL”.

But you don’t need a high-tech classroom filled with bright-and-shiny gadgets to do what M.I.T. did. A class set of  $2 Interactive Whiteboards will do just fine.

I admit I was “doin’ the Lewin” my first years of teaching. I was up late each night, creating Powerpoints and crafting worksheets. All students had to do was follow along and fill in the blanks. Then I’d work a problem on the chalkboard and the students would finish the rest for homework. The next day, the whole cycle would repeat with a new topic.  I planned lessons by answering the question “What am I going to do in class tomorrow?” Now, I plan lessons by answering the questions “What are my students going to do tomorrow? How will it help them progress towards our learning goals?”

Pseudoteaching was relatively easy. It fit nicely with The Hidden Contract that exists in the majority of classrooms. I still fall back lazily into pseudoteaching on occasion, especially when I feel pressed for time or when I sense student resistance to work. Real teaching provides struggles (large and small, for teachers and students) each day.

What’s your pseudoteaching story?

Head on over to my pseduoteaching page where you’ll curretly find links to other new pseudoteaching posts from John Burk, Dan Meyer, Rhett Allain, and Jerrid Kruse, which all went live today. (You can also access the pseudoteaching page from the menu in my blog header.)

We all hope pseudoteaching will become a valuable lens for critically examining our own teaching, and that the idea will spread to other teachers as well. We’d love for you to contribute your own examples of pseudoteaching. Just email me a link to your pseudoteaching post and I’ll add it. Thanks!