Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Learning, Literacy and Learner Skill

Tēnā Koutou Katoa - Greetings To You All
Wordle Array
This year, the New Zealand Ministry of Education displayed a list of terms in a draft instruction sheet for learners of Chemistry.

The proposal is that page 3, labelled for student use, may assist learners to reach the standard and achieve a rudimentary qualification in secondary education (NCEA Level 1).

Learners at this level must have a “comprehensive understanding” of aspects of basic Science. Here’s a sentence from the draft sheet:

A comprehensive understanding means you are able to link ideas to integrate the relevant chemistry through elaborating, justifying, relating, evaluating, comparing and contrasting, or analysing.

The new Bloom’s Taxonomy, a tool for teachers, lists the same and similar terms as in the sentence shown above. It is understood, however, that teachers using Bloom’s taxonomy are either familiar with the meanings of the terms or have the initiative and required education to find out about these for themselves.

Terms like justifying and evaluating are not easy to define clearly, even for some teachers. Most teachers do not draw a clear distinction between the processing skills of contrasting and comparing, say.

Yet these are just a few of the difficult terms that are found in a draft instruction to NCEA Level 1 learners.

As teachers, of course, we must teach/coach/train our learners to be able to recognise the difference between such terms as contrasting and comparing. The learner needs to be introduced to what each of these analysis processes has to offer.

Why do we end up asking kids to get their head round the lingo that teachers may well have difficulty grappling with? I wonder if this intellectuality is really beyond the stage that most NCEA Level 1 learners are at, given that many already have difficulty with literacy at this level.

It seems that responsibility for learning continues to devolve.

It is as if learners are now expected to know the meaning of terms (or at least acknowledge their existence) often before they have the chance to get any real practice in the skills they are the labels for. These are skills that learners may not yet have the developmental ability to permit them to understand.

Ka Kite Anō - Catch ya later