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Saturday, December 3, 2016

Fundamental Laws of TeachOlogy: a Handbook For a Beginner Science Teacher

What is the difference between an expert and a professional?
A professional does what is needed to be done. 
An expert explains - why.  
How do people become professionals?
By accumulating professional experience.
How do people become experts?
By reflecting on accumulated professional experience.
(C) Valentin Voroshilov
Some people write what they think about education. 
I write what I know about it.
The mission (i.e. the reason for existence) of education 
as a human practice is to ensure the progress of humanity.
The mission of education as a social institution
is enabling people to succeed in life.
The goal of educational institutions
is to equip people with relevant knowledge and skills.
The mission (i.e. the reason for existence) of science as a human practice is understanding the world in its entirety (outside and inside human subjects); i.e. developing exact description of the world’s structure and evolution.
The function of a specific science is making reliable predictions in a specific scientific field.
The mission of a scientist as an agent of that practice is discovering truth and presenting it in a testable form.
The mission of a teacher is fostering in students his/her love for learning.
The mission of a science teacher is sharing with students the feeling of pleasure from thinking.
The mission of a mentor is sharing with students the feeling of pleasure from doing the right thing.
The mission of a parent is making children feeling safe, loved, and confident.
The mission of humanity is making world a better place.
(C) Valentin Voroshilov

Two short video presentations:

Every road has its beginning.
Every evolution has stages and phases.
The birth of a knowledgeable and skillful human follows specific laws, 
like the birth of a human.
Skipping those stages is impossible. 
Alternating those stages will lead to “birth defects”.
That is why we need to know the basic laws of TeachOlogy, so we could fulfill the mission of K12 education!

When we talk about science we do not often think about what do we mean when we use that word. The (almost) only time when we try to invoke the definition of a “science” is when we want to run a comparison between a science and a religion. But when we talk about a specific science, like physics, or biology, or science of education, we automatically assume that all sciences are more or less equal to each other by their structure. This assumption is wrong.
The full discussion about what science is would take too much time and space (here is an example from physics).
For the purpose of this post we can rely on a common sense and the use of a clear analogy.
Let's say you read a paper on geopolitics. You read that such a country is developed, and such a country is developing. Even if you don't know the exact definition of what a developed country is or what a developing country is you have the feeling which helps you to understand the difference; you have the feeling which helps you to answer a question about different countries: “Is that country developed or developing?”, e.g. Brazil is more developed than Mexico but it still is a developing country; the USA is a developed country (however, with underdeveloped public education); etc.
The exact same feeling can be used to differentiate between specific sciences. Using the same terminology we can differentiate between developed sciences and developing sciences. For example, we can ask if physics is a developed or developing science. The answer is “Physics is a developed science”. There is no doubt about that. Mathematics is a developed science, as well.
But what about education? The first note should be made that when we say this word – “education” – we don’t usually mean a scientific research in the field, but a human practice. That human practice – “education” – also includes a research in the field. But we don’t have a special name for that type of a research. However, we can say that the research in the field of education is in a developing stage, hence the science of education is a developing science.
Most of the sciences fall either in a category “developed” (like math and physics) or developing (like education and economics).
Personally, I do not like this particular terminology.
I prefer calling a developed science just a “Science”. And I find calling a developing science a “science” is just confusing, because it makes it to be seen as a developed one. That is why I do not call a research in  education a “science” but a “scientific field”.
As a human practice education includes a research related to the study of properties and laws of learning and teaching processes. That research represents a scientific field, which eventually will lead to the development of a science of education (in the sense of a developed science).

Using the same word – education – for the whole human practice and for a research in the field is confusing. We need a name which describes specifically the field of scientific research in education. That field includes everything related to learning and teaching. For all species learning is a very important evolutionary process. We – humans – study properties of learning processes so we could use the results of that study for the development the most efficient and effective teaching practices. That is why I call this field of research – the field of scientific research designated to study learning and teaching processes – TeachOlogy. TeachOlogy is not yet a science, it is still a scientific field, or, using the geopolitical terminology, TeachOlogy is a developing science. Even if TeachOlogy is not yet a science, it already has many important discoveries. Those discoveries so far have not been scientifically proved, but they can be used as heuristic rules to plan and execute research practices, as well as professional practices, in the field of learning and teaching.
TeachOlogy is a practical/applied "science" (scientific field) of learning and teaching, offering a set of helpful and working heuristic rules (in the same sense as rules for problem solving in "How to Solve It", by Goerge Polya). 
The reason that the following set of "laws" have been developed is simple - they work! All the laws of TeachOlogy comes from a generalization of a long and successful teaching practice. Evidence prove that I am good a teaching.
Why am I good a teaching?
Because: (1) I know patterns needed for creating solutions to physics problems (and problems in general); (2) I know patterns needed for learning how to create solutions to physics problems; (3) I know patterns needed for teaching how to create solutions to physics problems; (4) I am good at employing those patterns in my teaching practice.
Fundamental Laws of TeachiOlogy represent some of those patterns (more are in by book).
Four years later after publishing this handbook, I wrote a post "America! The victim of the Primitivism".
This is the quote from that post.
"Learning is not drinking from the fountain on knowledge. The process of learning is the process in which knowledge is being developed in the mind of a person. But, when students are let to perform random activities, on their own, they will not be able to construct any significant knowledge. That is where a teacher comes into a picture. A teacher must be able to help students organize their learning activities in the most efficient way."

Fundamental Laws of TeachOlogy: 
a Handbook For a Beginner Teacher

Teaching is guiding students through an arrangement of learning experiences specifically designed for helping students with mastering the subject, including understanding the topics, developing skills, and feeling good about themselves.
Teaching = motivating + demonstrating + instructing + explaining
Learning = goal making + memorizing + reiterating + thinking
Understanding = making sense of the things by connecting the current experience with the previous knowledge, and – if needed – modifying the previous knowledge, or re-describing the current experience.
If a person can learn the multiplication table and the strategy for solving a quadratic equation, that person can learn any high level intellectual knowledge (e.g. quantum gravitation), and there are only two reasons for that not happening - no desire, or a wrong teacher.
If the only exercise students had been doing for 12 years is squats, they will not be good at push-ups and pull-ups. Do not expect from students an ability to think if all the had to do for 12 years was memorizing facts and rules.
True learning never happens by watching, it happens by doing.
You can watch for hours other people swimming, but if you want to learn how to swim you have to get yourself into water and start trying.
Reading (and watching, and listening) helps to form an initial vocabulary, and to set relationships between the current knowledge and the upcoming one. Doing (speaking, writing, solving, explaining) forms the skills.
The “learning space” of students in a class is (essentially) three dimensional: students might differ by their 1. background (previously learned knowledge and skills); 2. learnability (rate and volume of attaining knowledge and skills as a function of time and effort); 3. motivation (aspirations and willingness to learn).
A good teacher always can provide a reason for his/her actions. Sometime it is "I just felt like doing this". But for a good teacher that does not happen very often.
Kids do not know anything and learn everything from scratch. When adults learn new skills, they repeat the same general steps and stages of learning they used to use when where learning as kids (but usually/hopefully faster).
Look at infants – they always try doing new things and want to learn something new! Now look at school graduates – so many of them do not want to learn anything new. A facility which does this to students cannot be called “a school”.
The best gift a parent can give to a child is good habits; the best gift a teacher can give to a student is love for learning and confidence in ability to learn.
The most important social ability and a habit parents and teachers can give to children is fighting the temptation for instant gratification.
The art of teaching is based on the science of learning, the love for education, and the passion for sharing this love.
Everybody can drive, but not everyone is a good driver, everybody can cook, but not everyone is a chef. Anyone can talk, but it is wrong to think that anybody can be a good teacher.
A great teacher is not the one who just loves teaching, but the one who loves learning and is passionate in sharing this love.
If you are a good teacher, your students understand your way of thinking and copy what you do. If you are a great teacher, your students can generate their own ideas and do things impossible to you.
For example – for a physics or math teacher.
If you are a good teacher, your students understand your solutions to problems, if you are a great teacher, your students generate their own solutions.
Teachers – like doctors – must take “a Hippocratic Oath” of a teacher. i.e. to promise “never do harm to anyone”, because there is always something more important in teaching than merely transmitting knowledge.
If a person does not like a challenge and does not like learning, that person should not go into the business of education in any form; she.he is not going to be a good teacher, or administrator, or a researcher in the field.
There are three kinds of human practices/projects with the goal of advancing human life: (a) scientific research - with the goal of discovering new patterns which can be used for making reliable predictions; (b) engineering and art - with the goal of developing and building new devices (and systems of devices), or  developing artifacts of art; (c) social advancement - with the goal of a social advancement, developing or adopting new collective practice(s) (new - for the given social group, but may have been used already by other people).
Education combines all three.
Every human practice has some elements of a scientific research: when we start a project, we generally have some understanding of what we want to achieve and how we want to achieve that (“a hypothesis”), and how will we assess (measure) how close we are to the goal (“facts”).
The difference between a scientific research and a social project is in “what utilizes what”.
In a scientific research, some social activity is being used as a vehicle to obtain new knowledge. In that case, some advancement in some social practice represents a “collateral” result of the research.
In a social project, some scientific knowledge is being used to achieve positive changes in a certain social situation. In this case, some newly recorded knowledge represents a “collateral” result of the project.
Physics represents the most developed scientific approach to study the Nature. When a physicist is trying to understand how the Nature works, he/she uses a scientific approach based on clear and uniformly used terminology, and on well-defined and uniformly used measuring tools and procedures. Everyone who teaches science has to use the same scientific approach.  Everyone who teaches how to teach science has to use the same scientific approach.
The main goal of education is equipping students with the ability to succeed in life. The highest level of education is achieved when students can create solutions to problems they have never solved before. 
Since the solution has to be constructed, a student most probably will be making mistakes.
True (actual, full, complete) learning cannot happen without making mistakes.
Mistakes are inevitable and unavoidable.
There is no shame in making a mistake.
There is shame, though, in insisting that you didn't, when even you already know that you did.
A culture where mistake are being punished cannot succeed in Science, Technologies, Engineering, and Mathematics (and intellectually in general; but, keep in mind, that "grading" is not necessary "punishment").
This is just a fact, that the same assignments (e.g. physics problems) may be too easy for some students and too difficult for other students. In both cases the learning is not happening, because a student did not have to learn anything, or could not learn anything. Hence, when designing teaching practice a teacher has to manage the difficulty of the assignments - for all students - making assignment not too easy and not too hard, i.e. placing them in the Zone of Proximal Development of the students.

People who praise the Socratic method should keep in mind how he ended his life.
For Socrates, knowledge a person has, defines that person as a whole. When Socrates said: “I know that I know nothing” he did not just accept limits of his knowledge, he accepted his limits as a human being. Unfortunately, expecting the same from others had lead Socrates to willingly drinking poison.
Click here For more on the Socratic Method

Appendix: On a definition of “a law” and “a science”
I) What is “a law”?
A law is a statement of an existing pattern. This statement usually has a verbal and a mathematical representation.
II) What does a law do?
A law allows to explain observed phenomena. But the most important application of a law is to predicting events. A law allows to make a statement about (a) what events will be possible for happening (within given limits, under given circumstances, within a given time frame), and (b) among possible events, what is a chance for a given event to happen. That is why in addition to a "research question" the NSF should ask the grant seekers "why specific predictions the scientific community will be able to do as the result of the research?"
III) What is “a science”?
The definition of a science is multi-dimensional.
(a) A science is an internally consistent body of knowledge based on the scrupulous and logical analysis of a vast amount of data.
(b) A science is a specific human practice which mission is to obtain and describe natural and social patterns (a.k.a. laws) in order to use those patterns for making reliable predictions.
(shortly: the mission of a science is making predictions; if making reliable predictions is not yet possible, the field is still in a pre-science stage called "a scientific field"; people working in a scientific field are scientists; the mission of a scientist is to discover the truth and to describe it in the form which allows making testable predictions).
(c) The development of a science usually has two stages:
1) a pre-science stage (called "a scientific field"), when the main goals of human activities are:
* developing a language (mainly naming objects and processes), tools and procedures (including specifically designed experiments) for collecting and classifying data, establishing formal definitions, and
* collecting and classifying data, and
* formulating the set of patterns describing the phenomena within a specific domain
2)  a science stage, when the main goals of human activities are:
* using the developed set of patterns for improving human living, and
* using the developed set of pattern for advancing the science.
When a scientific field is in a pre-science stage one of the most important tasks of the scientific community is establishing common definitions. This requires a long consensus-building process. Eventually, the best definitions become commonly accepted. The set of scientific definitions forms a "skeleton" of a scientific field. 
Five basic laws of logical reasoning for learning science.
1. Science has a specific language the structure of which is defined by the definitions of that science.
2. A definition cannot be ambiguous. If obviously different objects fit the same "definition", that is NOT a definition.
3. If something violates at least one feature of the definition of THAT, that something is NOT THAT.
4. For better understanding of what something IS, one needs examples of it is NOT.

5. If you logically derived your conclusion from a basic principle and the conclusion does not make any sense, recheck your logic, or replace your basic principle, or both. When a scientific field reaches the stage of a science it has well established laws, fundamental/basic principles, and well established logical procedures which allow make conclusions from laws and basic principles. Evidently, education is yet a scientific field but not a science.

Avery human practice presents a certain combination of pre-scientific activities, scientific activities, art, engineering, and chaotic trials. The activity which dominates the practice gives the name to the practice.
Thank you for visiting,
Dr. Valentin Voroshilov

To learn more about my professional experience:
BTW: A Teacher is the Manager of a Class!

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