Monday, June 9, 2014

Decoding the disciplines

Pace, David and Joan Middendorf (eds). Decoding the disciplines: helping students learn disciplinary ways of thinking. San Francisco : Jossey-Bass, 2004.

This book is about:
  1. identifying disciplinary "bottlenecks" 
  2. examining the steps experts take to solve these problems
  3. demonstrating (explicitly modelling) the tasks
  4. generating exercises for students to practice the skills & get feedback--scaffolding the tasks from application to synthesis, & simple to more complex
  5. gauging student understanding & assessing mastery.
I think that "bottlenecks" are quite similar to "threshold concepts" (Meyer & Land).

In chapter 6, "Learning to Use Evidence in the Study of History" (pp. 57-65), students learn to:
  • recognize evidence
  • use imagination to project themselves into the story (developing a personal viewpoint which incorporate emotional responses)
  • use specific details to support their position within the broader historical context (communities & cultures)
  • & raise questions. 

The authors (Valerie Grim, David Pace, Leah Shopkow) frame writing history in terms of detectives collaborating with prosecutors to assemble evidence & produce compelling arguments which include individual motivations & larger societal context.

This is how I would apply practice to Photography:
  1. Students learn to find images & describe them based on the techniques depicted in their textbook.
  2. Students make images & describe the elements they tried to include.
  3. Students examine their own images for these elements--if not present, make new images. If present, write their unique vision = interpretation of the elements/techniques with their underlying intentions (story).
I think this is the intention of GVSU's photo program, but how is it practiced in courses? Are the assignments effective? Do they build on one another? Does student performance improve? What evidence shows this, if so?

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