Wednesday, October 15, 2014


This is my reflection on my learning from the Ulearn 2014 conference. In my previous post I talked about my thoughts around the first keynote from Yoram Harpaz. Here are some of the other highlights for me.

Tom Barratt talked about fostering questions and how our reactions to them can either encourage them or close them down. This fits well with the idea of fostering an inquiry disposition. We all know how many questions pre-schoolers ask but by the time they reach upper primary school many of them have stopped. We need to make sure nothing we say or do contributes to this but instead makes questions and wonderings an expected part of what goes on in classrooms. As Tom put it, we need to "encourage students to be resilient questioners of the world."

Yoram Harpaz spoke about how education is always in crisis because we expect to achieve too much. This leads to us always looking for saviours. Teaching thinking was the saviour for a while, currently it is digital technology.  He didn't seem to have a high opinion of digital technology but that is another story. 

He talked about the three elements of thinking:

  • thinking skills
  • thinking dispositions
  • thinking for understanding
To find out more about his thoughts on this read his paper 'Back to Knowledge: The Ironic Path of Teaching Thinking". Just as he believed we must choose one ideology, he believed we had to choose one way to teach thinking and he believed that was by teaching thinking for understanding. Part of his reasoning was that we can only think well in areas we understand therefore teaching for understanding should be the focus which does make sense to me. 

However, even though I agree that teaching for understanding is really important and is one of the main reasons I believe in an inquiry approach to teaching, I still think there is a place for explicit teaching of skills in context. Teaching dispositions is also important, although probably the hardest of the three to develop. In my opinion the skills and dispositions support the development of understanding, just as when we teach reading we teach that meaning is essential but there are skills and strategies that need to be used and we foster the love of reading. 

In my next post I will talk about my thoughts around the breakouts from Lane Clark and Mike Scaddan.

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