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Who’s to blame?

The blame for such inadequacies usually falls on the student. While much blame legitimately belongs with students, not all blame rests with them. Teachers must shoulder some blame for the lack of adequate student answers to conceptual prompts. Part of the blame lies in the prompts teachers provide students.

Many students and teachers alike have lamented that the format of problems in the classroom (particularly in math and science) bears little resemblance to the way problems look in real life. In fact, one of the most important practical thinking skills one can acquire is knowing how to identify a problem. [We need to] frame tasks so that students use skills similar to those needed for the ill-defined problems they will encounter in real life. Tasks developed [in this way] are sufficiently defined as to be solvable, but do not state explicitly which variable or aspect of the problem will constitute or enable a solution (Potts, 1994, 1).

So, there is a need to change our questioning if students are going to change their answers. How do we go about this task?

To modify process [emphasis mine], activities must be restructured to be more intellectually demanding… [A]ctivities should be used in ways that encourage self-directed learning… Every teacher should know a variety of ways to stimulate and encourage higher level thinking skills. Group interaction and simulations… are a few of the methods for managing class activities that support process modification (Berger, 1991, 1).

Now wait a minute, I try to make my course intellectually demanding. But this sounds like theory to me.


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