Review of Week 8 (Feb 28, Mar 1) and Preview of Week 9
[by Chris and Katie]
We began class discussing a brief section of Acting Out Culture which introduced “how we learn.” Our attention was focused to a list of questions on page 280 which were about how the reader envisions an ideal school. The questions ranged from how work would be evaluated to what kind of rules the teachers and students would have to follow. It was pointed out that the main purpose of these questions, which were in the very beginning of the reading, were designed to challenge the readers assumption that the status quo of school systems is effective and in no need of change. Professor Seaman then asked everyone in class to propose an idea of how schools could be change for the better. This took up about forty five minutes of class as everyone had a lot to say. Some of the more common proposals brought up by the class were reducing the emphasis on testing, having courses which are not designed solely to prepare you for more school and have a broader application, increasing freedom, and having teachers use different techniques, such as peer learning. It seemed to be the general consensus within the class that such changes would lead to students being more enthusiastic about learning and more capable of learning effectively.
It was then brought up that such changes are not easy, and that society is actually demanding that school systems do not sway from the status quo. This brought us to Alfie Kohn’s essay “From Degrading to De-grading” which was pointed out to be a researched argument, similar to the final three projects in class. We started off by identifying the central claim of the essay: grades detract from learning. With that in mind, we moved to looking at how the essay was structured as it would be helpful to us in writing our own researched arguments. The essay began with an introduction, which started off with the somewhat alarming claim “Frankly, we ought to be worried for these teachers’ students,” (teachers who enjoy keeping grades), used to hook the reader. The introduction went on to present the three main negative effects grading has on students. Following this section Kohn explains his argument of why grades are an invalid method for assessing a student. Through these first two sections his main arguments are presented. Kohn then proceeds with his essay by talking about why changing the methods for grading hasn’t been done, and then opposes common objections to his ideas. Throughout all of this Kohn is consistently providing evidence and support for what he argues. His types of evidence varied from academic journals to personal experience to analogies, etc. At this point Professor Seaman noted that it is ideal to have six or seven different types of evidence in a researched argument. To wrap up thoughts on the essay, it was noted the authors tone which was rather sarcastic at times. Professor Seaman encouraged us to consider the tone of our papers, as it inserts an individual voice into a writing.
Fourth hour was devoted to preparing the class for the research papers we would be writing for the rest of the semester, mainly Project Three. We were given a handout that explained each of the three research projects individually. Project Three, which is a group project, was described to basically be a trial at an annotated bibliography. The groups which were assigned in class are expected to summarize and evaluate a source and then write a paper on it. Upon handing in the paper each group must also present their project to the class. Project Four A is essentially the same as Project Three, but it is not done in groups, does not need to be presented, and must summarize and evaluate five sources instead of just one. Finally, Project Four B is a researched argument that uses sources from Project Four A and any others you feel are needed. Professor Seaman stated that the only requirement for the topic on this paper is that it be somewhat related to the class, more specifically how we read, how we learn, or how we watch. We then reviewed a sample Project Three in our groups and class was dismissed.
Thursday, March 1
To start the class off, Professor Seaman discussed week 9 of our semester schedule. We discussed the revisions for March thirteenth and March fifteenth. After discussing the revisions Prof. Seaman gave us an exercise with the reading she passed out. The excerpt was from chapter 6 of NCBL: Measure and Punish by Diane Ravitch and was titled ‘The Death Of The Great American School System.’ After handing out the excerpt we went over the reading that we were supposed to read the night before: They Say/I Say pages 105-120. Professor Seaman read the two paragraphs out loud to the class. After listening to the reading Prof. Seaman told the class to get with a partner and find the connector words we learned about in They Say/I Say. We realized that Diane Ravitch did not use any of the connector words besides in fact.
When we had finished the entire excerpt and discussion we went over the purpose of research. We talked about a few reasons why we do research and how doing research would help with our next project. The main point Professor Seaman pointed out was that many of us believed that research was used to prove our point. In reality, research does that but also helps us develop our point even further. It also pursues understandings and ideas and even helps us learn new information.
After discussing the excerpt fully we began to talk about a broad topic and how we could narrow the topic down. Professor Seaman started talking about the steps from Project 4b (on the paper she handed out Tuesday) that we could use to help us narrow our topic down. After we talked about the steps to take the class was asked if we knew the difference between a primary and secondary source. We established that primary sources were journals, newspapers, or scientific experiments from someone who was actually there. Professor Seaman then asked the class to pick a topic that could relate to Acting Out Culture’s articles we have read. The class stayed quiet for a while when we were picking a topic but then Cameron picked the recent primaries and the class started coming up with ideas for a smaller topic within the broad topic of recent political primaries. Negative advertisements in politics became our new, smaller topic. Professor Seaman then went over how to find credible sources. She talked about what to look for when looking for the right source—using clues to see how the webpage is biased and how to decide if the webpage was authoritative enough. If the webpage was peer- reviewed then it was a credible source because it was reviewed by groups of experts in the field the webpage is talking about.
When the political primary conversation was over we were told to have a nice spring break and dismissed from class.
Preview of Week 9 (Mar 13, 15)
[by Dr. Seaman]
On Tuesday, we will take a look at a successful Revision of Project 2, so that we can investigate successful strategies for organizing an analytical essay as well as for making use of and explaining evidence, as well as incorporating sources (such as an essay from Acting Out Culture). We will discuss images from the “How We Learn” section of AOC [“Then and Now: Encyclopedic Knowledge” (Acting Out 298-299);Scenes and Un-Scenes: Looking at Learning (Acting Out 354-359)] to extend our discussion beyond what Kohn offered in his essay on grading.
During Fourth Hour, everyone will be present in the room, working in groups. I will move around the room, from group to group, discussing strategies and answering questions about Project 3, bearing in mind the group presentations will be a week from Tuesday.
On Thursday, we will discuss another “How We Learn” essay, this one Gatto’s essay “Against School.” You will note that we’re starting the section with some more extreme challenges to the status quo of public education in the US. Then we will address Annotated bibliographies and citing sources, the first of which is especially pertinent to Project 3 and the second of which will be necessary to successful writing throughout the rest of the semester and beyond.