Saturday, May 12, 2007

The Monotillation of Traxoline

As I turn in my final trimester grades, I think about my students and can't help but think about traxoline. This bit of educational humor/realism is often attributed to Judy Lanier.

It is very important that you learn about traxoline. Traxoline is a new form of zionter. It is monotilled in Ceristanna. The Ceristannians gristerlate large amounts of fevon and then bracter it to quasel traxoline. Traxoline may well be one of our most lukised snezlaus in the future because of our zionter lescelidge.

1. What is traxoline?
2. Where is traxoline monotilled?
3. How is traxoline quaselled?
4. Why is traxoline important?

Every adult and student I have talked with scores 100% on the post-test. However, not one of them knows a thing about traxoline, or for that matter, cares. But had this been a real quiz, each person would have received an "A."

Now, this might seem like just a silly exercise, but one blogger illustrates this point using an example from his own specialty of paleoecology:

It is very important that you learn about arcellacean taphonomy. Arcellaceans are a major group of testaceous rhizopods. During preservation in any depositional environment, taphonomy produces different thanatocoenoses from extant biocoenoses. Thenatocoenoses are the result of differental preservation during burial, but differ between environments of deposition due to differences in original biocoenoses and soil biogeochemistry. Arcellaceans are one of our most useful paleoindicators for lacustrine environments.

1. What are arcellaceans?
2. How do thanatocoenoses form?
3. Why do thanatocoenoses differ?
4. Why are arcellaceans important?

I could write many similar examples from my own curriculum. This is one reason I never use the multiple-choice and vocabulary tests in the back of the science test supplementary resources. Public school is a game in many ways, and many kids have learned to play it without actually absorbing any knowledge.

Science isn't about memorization. Science is about being curious, asking questions, exploring data, asking more questions, researching, and making connections between what you learn and what you already know. These are hard things to measure on a 90 - 80 -70 - 60 grading scale.

I am not really even a fan of "hands-on" learning for "hands-on" sake. Kids can go through the motions without ever engaging in any real learning. That's why I think it is so important to work with predictions and make those connections between kids and their learning. This is more "hand-on, minds-on" learning. Such activities focus more on predicting, asking questions and thinking scientifically and actively rather than training passive learners to earn "A's" through the successful completion of tasks. Science shouldn't be about memorization.

Brad Hoge disscusses questioning in his post about "well-meaning examples of constructivism go[ne] awry,"
It's okay to say, "I don't know" to a student's question, if fact it is important to do so, so long as that response is followed by "let's find out". Science is about the finding out. The knowledge accumulated by centuries of science in practice is needed to solve new problems. No one has all of the answers, but everyone can learn to think scientifically. This includes the skills of knowledge acquisition and problem solving.

As written in a previous post, I couldn't agree more.

1 comment:

myrondueck said...

MC is full of pitfalls and downsides, one of which is that it really doesn't measure the extent to which someone is right or wrong on any given question. I agree with you overall that it would be nice to dispense with MC altogether, but I don't see this happening any time soon (especially with state/provincial exams at high school). In the meantime, I think we can adapt and tweek MC. One way we have done it is something called 'I Know I an Close' MC. When students are debating between 2 possible answers, they put down both with an explanation.