Today, Profesor Petrosino started the class by giving student the same quiz from the very first day of class, this time as a post-test of their factual knowledge to solve the Circumference of the Earth problem. The class average for the pre-test from the first day was 95% and the class average for the post-test after working with the actual problem was a 98.1%, showing a mild increase.
Professor Petrosino then opened up a class discussion about why students did so well on test of individual facts, but not so well on actually finding the circumference of the Earth even though they knew all the facts. After all, if problem based learning was so good in terms of helping students connect their factual knowledge to actual concepts, then why is what we’re seeing when we visit actual classrooms more aligned with the factual recall quiz questions rather than the deep concepts from the problem? After some thoughts by the students, Professor Petrosino posed that, perhaps it’s the fault of all of us in the room. This class, and the UTeach cohort in general, is filled with students who have excelled in math and science, namely because we’ve done well at these sorts of factual recall based tests. All of us, including the Professor Petrosino, have been systemized to teaching and learning math and science into bite-size factual chunks.
Professor Petrsoino then started to talk about how we know that experts and novices in fact hold the same sorts of factual and often conceptual knowledge. But what differs in experts is their ability to transfer this knowledge to different situations. Students then broke up into smaller groups to discuss what they thought about this framework: Is it possible to teach basic skills through complex problems? Or, is it more important to teach basic skills first before solving problems.
After the discussion, Master Teacher Denise Ekberg introduced the logistics of the Field Teaching Component of the course, in which students would be responsible for observations and implementation of a problem-based lesson at Manor New Tech High.