Saturday, September 29, 2012

Constructive Criticism is ...

Constructive criticism  is neither and does not work!  Critical thinking is both and does work!

Assembling the bird houses, paint them, placing them and growing a garden around them blends both science and art, but critical thinking of the gardener determines the final presentation.

As professionals, educators begin by determining what our subjects know, (pre-test) perform a task (teach), measure the efficacy, (test) modify or adjust, (re-teach) reproduce that task with the adjustments as desired, and then repeat the cycle.  Teaching thus by design is both an art as well as a science; an art because it takes reflection and exploring but a science because there are measurements, reproducible skills and goals or benchmarks.

An artist begins with an idea, a thought, goal, message or statement in mind to convey to another.  Mediums range from oil, to water color, music or even words.  Teachers include mediums such as discussions, activities, (although worksheets don’t grow dendrites) connections and engagement.  This variety is necessary for artists, as well as teachers.  Not to get distracted by the method of presentation, we want to examine the setting necessary to build the confidence required to take these risks that might to improve the craft. 

An earlier post about the culture of learning began to establish the need for building a great place to work.  To ask artists to consider their craft, without being critical is no mean task.  Teachers must feel confident to take a risk, try new things and explore.  Without this assurance, no exploration will be attempted, and things will continue status quo, results will continue the same and we will be left behind as others progress.  This means that constructive criticism may be neither, unless there is a relationship not based on performance.

The presence authentic self reflection or examination indicates an additional component of critical thinking.  Since teaching is an individual craft done singularly, intrinsic adjustments are desired.  Coercion or force may sway some off center but without a true critical examination of personal tasks and activities, most will return to status quo.   Collaboration and knowing peers are also seeking the best and willing to explore other methods of presentation builds additional confidence necessary for critical thinking.

This comfort level allows teachers to confidently examine their own behaviors, scientifically look at other methods as worthy alternatives and risk trying these new techniques in their own classroom.  At WMS, risks are encouraged, questions are asked and answers are explored regardless of the answer and student engagement is higher, more intense and self-directed. 

How does this happen?  What makes this all possible?  Can this type of environment also be duplicated?  Is teaching a science or an art?  What can we do differently to help others learn and get better?

"I taught it, but they did not learn it!"
(p.s.  You did not teach it!)

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