Thanks to all who attended our DTAR Workshop on Error Correction and Leading Discussion, 2/17/12

On last Friday, 2/17, the UH Division of TA Resources hosted a workshop on Error Correction and Leading discussion.  Ms. Aymara Boggiano led discussion with TAs from a number of departments, including English, History, Economics, Biology, and Hispanic Studies, among others.

Ms. Boggiano began the discussion by talking about the embarrassment of making errors as both teacher and student, and how that embarrassment sometimes led to panic rather than learning.  The biggest danger comes when students (or teachers) become afraid of asking for help.

To help make her point, she referenced this TED video from Kathryn Schulz, which is about a phenomenon she calls “error blindness,” the inability to recognize when we are mistaking mistakes:

Ms. Boggiano asked TAs at each table to talk first of all about the types of errors they encountered, either in writing or in discussion.  Responses included:

  • failure to follow instructions
  • failures of processing, or sequencing
  • lack of practice
  • failure to make transition from lower- to higher-order understanding of material
  • difficulties learning how to “think like an expert,” or taking on the vocabulary, concepts, practices of the discipline being taught

Ms. Boggiano then asked TAs at each table to name some of their favorite techniques and strategies to address these kinds of errors:

  • try to identify the small part of the process that students are getting wrong, to pinpoint what’s missing in their solutions
  • try to mix assignments between “process,” where students can be rewarded for practicing solutions without penalties, and “product,” where students can practice for high-stakes projects, like Engineering projects, that demand a consistently high performance across the board
  • provide students with self-checking or self-monitoring protocols or strategies, so that they can learn how to check for their own errors
  • ensure that students are using the appropriate, discipline-specific vocabulary introduced by reading assignments
  • recasting oral errors in restatement, so that other students can hear the correct formulation; this is best done with leading questions addressed to erring students, so that they can be the ones to restate their initial, incorrect formulation

Finally, Ms. Boggiano asked the group to consider how to target which errors to correct?  Do we correct all errors?  If not, what is the criterion to intervene?  TAs came up with the following suggestions:

  • lead students to reexamine their thinking by asking, “why?”  Often this work of explanation leads students to recognize their own errors; so request clarifications when it seems like student thinking is fuzzy
  • monitor small group discussion, and if necessary ask groups to rethink and redo a particular exercise; easier in groups than with individuals
  • in large or whole group discussion, be prepared as with small groups to elicit the correct formulation, lead students to correct themselves
  • remember the importance of trust throughout: students who trust their teacher will accept correction much more easily; for this reason, make it clear that you can accept correction when you make mistakes, as teachers inevitably do
  • there is an interesting overlap between practices of correction and those of classroom management, because they are both about how the teacher makes and enforces rules in order for learning to take place; your ability as a teacher to maintain fairness, consistency, and high expectations helps to create a positive learning environment that allows students to volunteer answers and receive both encouragement and correction whenever necessary.

The workshop broke up around 12:45.

DM

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