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Discussion Reflection: The Having of Wonderful Ideas

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Discussion Reflection: The Having of Wonderful Ideas
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   Moulton Page | 1 Andrew Moulton Internship 1 Dr. Stuart Carroll Discussion Reflection on Ele anor Duckworth’s The Having of Wonderful Ideas  July 23, 2014 I must admit, I am a fan of Eleanor Duckworth’s The Having of Wonderful Ideas . I think she does a nice job of presenting her softer ideas within the framework of Piaget’s hard -lined (who would imagine a Swiss to be hard and rigid?) cognitive theories of development. In this intimate article Ms. Duckworth credits her teacher peers for their intuitive knowledge of student  psychology, humbles herself before their experience, and then sets the stage for her own suggestions that marries Piaget’s theories, observations of her peer’s teacher experiences, and those of her own into an idyllic set of suggestions. Eleanor begins her article with her life biography as this is the foundation for her beliefs. One thing of import is that Ms. Duckworth is unique in that she has the benefit of having spent an incredible amount of time just studying the subtleties of young people, so when she recommends sensitivity, I found it hard to believe that a teacher with thirty students in his class could have the time, or even the skill to respond to students as she would suggest. But on the whole, her suggestions are easily incorporated into a day, complimenting whatever other curriculum demands necessary. This is the second time I have read this article. I still resonate with it. Wonderful ideas are all around us, teachers need to be sensitive and courageous enough to allow students a little bit of room for exploration, experimentation, and play. I like to think that I bring a lot of this sensitivity, exploration, and play to my own work in the classroom. I have not intentionally come up with unsolvable problems as yet, but I do try to encourage students to consider deeply the   Moulton Page | 2 things they consider as fact. I like this idea of creating wonder in the everyday, and in designing discussion protocol, desperately wanted to express this through authentic questioning. I designed a discussion protocol which I hoped would elicit a student-driven discussion about the main topics of transitional moments, sensitivity to children, the unsolvable question as described in Hank’s example, alertness, and the role of the teacher in cultivating these creative  and wonderful moments. In arriving at a decision, I considered asking each of them to take a moment and generate a question from the reading that I would then collect, and answer in turn. But that felt a little too one-sided. I also considered starting off with a game that I had come across in an experiential education class that seemed to provide a space ripe for wonderful ideas, but decided against it because the activity would not be a discussion  in any sense of the term. I thought deeply about the beginning. I wanted to start with their questions, their interests, because the  previous day I had felt unnecessarily and tastelessly steered toward conclusions that were tangential to the main point of the article, and I feel that essentially this is what Duckworth is driving at cultivating in the setting of a space ripe for wonderful ideas. The questions I generated in sequential order were: What are your questions? Where should we start? Duckworth never defines what a ripe setting for wonderful ideas looks like, what do you think a classroom would look like? What would it contain? If, as Duckworth states, “a child can raise the right question for themselves if the setting is right,” what then is the role of the teacher? Does the idea of allowing students the space to cultivate wonderful ideas seem feasible? Where are the holes?   Moulton Page | 3 My group members were, from left in a clockwise direction: Kate, Mat, Stuart, Ana, and Nadja; I was only familiar with Kate ’s  teaching history and to a lesser degree Stuart’s. I knew from the  previous day’s group work that Mat was working in Secondary  Education in the Congo. Ana was working in primary. I knew very little of Nadja other than what she had presented in class with regards to her name. Leaving personal biographies and how they might or might not contribute to the trajectory of the discussion aside for the moment, I began with a quick assessment in order to gain an appreciation of where I should begin and of how much prior knowledge the group arrived with. I asked them to cover or close their eyes and answer the following questions with an affirmative thumbs up or negative thumbs down. “Have you read the article?” One person, unnamed, had not read the article, three had, and the fifth signed a half-raised thumb to which I inferred meant that he had read some but not all of the article. I had a good idea at this point where I should start, but in order to be sure, I followed up with, “ Do you have questions that you have prepared for this discussion?” To which I received the reply (from the unnamed person who had not read the article…), “wasn’t that your job?”  Giggles all around, and we were off and running. I chose my entry point strategical ly. I wanted to inform the person who hadn’t read but not bore those who had, so the first question I asked (also evaluative) was  based on gathering everyone’s thoughts and focusing them down on the more essential components of the article. Simply enough, I asked, “What are these wonderful moments that Duckworth is referring to?” Kate summarized quite aptly, Ana complimented and Nadja offered something that included Paiget. I felt that there could be some room needed for explanation and asked for a summary of Piaget’s work. That got Mat involved in the conversation. I had established a base of knowledge, a  platform, and jumped in with my first question that I hoped would also build on this base of   Moulton Page | 4 knowledge, “Duckworth never defines what a ripe setting for w onderful ideas looks like, what do you think a classroom would look like? What would it contain?” Stu came in with some ideas of the visual components: posters, plants, Ana added group work in clusters of students, Nadja put in windows and nice bight daylight, Mat complimented, and Kate summarized with a bit of a snark in her tone of voice. Although I wasn’t completely satisfied with what we had arrived at, and I think Duckworth might have had very different ideas of what settings were composed of, I let it go in favor of picking up on Kate’s skepticism and putting voice to it. She was a little taken aback that I had picked up on the subtlety of tone, so I had to joke into making her feel comfortable about raising her opinion. “Is it feasible? I mean, what exactly is the role of the teacher in all of this? If a child can raise the right question for themselves, and that is all dependent upon physical development as Piaget suggests, why bother expending the energy?” We had arrived at discussion, everyone  participated, and much of it is too much of a whirlwind of emotions to pinpoint with certainty,  but I remember within moments that this discussion, this batting around of ideas resulted in Ana  popping up with a comment that she hadn’t realized she had. She ide ntified it in fact, as a wonderful idea. We all giggled. Transitioning to another complimentary topic, I brought out the idea of transitional moments, “How can we as teachers create more of these transitional moments?” That discussion led me to  bring up Ha nk’s story and the resulting aspects required to cultivate wonderful moments: a willingness on the part of the teacher to accept student ideas, and an equal willingness to provide a setting that suggests wonderful ideas.
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