Friday, April 4, 2008

MLE conference

I went to a wonderful presentation today on Mediated Learning Experience (MLE) and the Feuerstein program associated with that. As a way of processing this information I thought I would blog my notes. Some of the presentations had handouts and some did not but I will try and blog as much of the information as I can.

Professor Reuven Feuerstein was brought in via a webinar. He spoke for over an hour on the success of mediated learning as well as the instruments he has developed for teaching kids to learn and think for themselves.

His son, Rabi Rafi Feuerstein spoke next. The idea behind mediated learning is that it is NOT about the skills. It is adjusting the capacity and propensity to learn from building on previous experience. By changing behavior, you can change the hardwiring of the brain. The brain is modifiable. When you change the conditions, you change the results and you change the hardware. By conditions I believe he was talking about the learning conditions...the how and why you teach. But it does go beyond, and these are my own thoughts; this gives great promise to many of the neuropsyc conditions such as anxiety and depression. It shows that through positive experiences that the brain can be re-wired! It isn't just a temporary fix. I had just been discussing this with a friend online so I just think the 'coincidence' is very interesting.

I so wish there had been handouts for this sessions but there were not. He discussed the tools that they have to help in the identification of how a person learns and how to best help them. I did not get them fully written down and I know that it is quite costly to go through this process. I was paying
attention more to how this might be applicable presently vs. using the tools.

There are many places where a student may have deficient cognitive functions. He went through many of those and I did not list them all as he was going through them rapidly. There are books on the subject and I will list those in another post.

WHY was the common theme of the day. Is math important? How many math majors with PhD's do you know? (He actually did say that....and I do know one;)) Why do you need the math? There are various answers but he discussed how it is the language for the sciences. And language is important. In MLE you discuss the 'why' with the student. You don't just 'insist' they do as told. He discussed at length the importance of language which is a big topic in the autism and deaf circles. Andrew is a partial member of both. I believe that their definition of language would jive well with RDI's definition of the need for broadband (non verbal) communication being high.

Other points included that you must spend time elaborating the question. ie: pay attention to the question...the input side and collecting information. . If you get the answer wrong was it the question that was wrong? or the answer? We need to articulate so that the question has one meaning? This puts more pressure on the teacher as there will certainly need to be more time spent 1:1 find out out the problem and how to better present it.

There are three parts to this mediated learning experience (MLE) as I understand it. 1) Input, 2) Elaboration and 3) Output. You can have deficiencies in each or any of these areas. He went through just some of these at a rapid pace and not in detail. The MLE book has these mapped out in detail. I will just review those
deficiencies that I wrote down in the presentation.

This child (or adult) reads just half the question and then rapidly picks the answer. So perhaps they always seem to pick A or B on a multiple test. (This is actually output here.) Basically they lack sufficient control in data gathering. As a result there is only a partial set of data to even review once you get to elaboration and output.

This is the person that reads USA today the same way they read the Bible. Do you approach math the same way you approach art? There is an inability to control the effort required to pay attention to systematically gathering the correct amount or quality of data. They don't invest enough TIME to the level of precision needed. He talked about how important it is to get the CONCEPT of time down as early an age as possible. Buy them at watch at 5 years old so they can keep looking at it. One way to test if this is the problem is to ask them what the story was about in their own words. This would be called narration in CM terms;)

This is another area of input deficiency. A child can't take a concept from one area and apply it to another. They have difficulties cross generalizing. This is very much 'worked on' in RDI. In a demonstration of their instruments later in the morning the child actually overgeneralized which is yet another area of deficiency.

52 is the same as 25. I found it interesting that they didn't do labeling.... ie: they didn't say this one relates to dyslexics. Since a foundational principle is that all are teachable, then the label doesn't matter. An interesting aside, at the end of the first session with
Professor Reuven Feuerstein Q&A was allowed via notecards. The second question was regarding how this might help those with autism. He said about 60 seconds on the subject stating that it was way over diagnosed and it a bit of a fallacy. Groans all around the room. I think he should have answered it differently and back to his original point that all are teachable. A label does not matter. However, he was interestingly cut off and the 'connection was broken.' many dollars do the schools get for each AI student??

I have some sketchy notes on some other areas in 'elaboration' however I can barely read them since I was writing so fast. As I go through the books, I will be making notes on AJ specifically and will share them with you.

There was so much more!! I think that their goal of the instruments that they developed define these deficiencies so that they can then be worked upon. However, as a homeschooler I could go through each one and say with almost certainty if Andrew had a weakness in that area. I think the instruments would be a fantastic tool for schools (special and regular ed) as teachers can not possibly know their students as well as a mom teacher. I don't see how a regular ed teacher could do MLE as intended without the instruments because it takes...TIME and an intimate knowledge of the student. I hope, even though we are not in public school, that our ISD seriously consider sending teachers to further training in the instruments so that they might be able to move away from so much skill based learning and move toward learning how to learn and learning the WHY behind the information that they are asked to return to the teacher (and state) via tests.

MLE also has so many similarities with CM. I will have to noodle on these and elaborate further. But the upshot was to learn to think at an early age and not just regurgitate. Narration does that along with many of the CM principles. The math programs such as MathUSee and Rightstart do that. It is not about memorizing the facts.

I am very excited about implementing these ideas but I want them to be more than a flash in the pan. As when I started with CM, I need to noodle over some of the basics, decide how to apply them and then implement. For me this takes some serious focus. I'll keep you updated.

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