I spent a lot of time thinking about this student reflection, and how I should comment:
Snippet from Student reflection about Pendulum Video and Case Study:
“…Also, should the teacher have stopped the discussion earlier? Maybe about 10 minutes after they had gotten the right answer instead of continuing for an entire 45 minutes. My only thinking for this is because they could be thinking too hard and I feel like they continued to steer away from the correct answer more and more. She either should have stopped it earlier or helped them steer in the right direction.“
Brian’s Comments to the Student:
I hear two great questions here: How long is too long to keep on discussing the same thing? And when should a teacher steer the class toward the right answer? So, I don’t have any answers for you. But I do have questions that I think are worth thinking about:
First, what in the video did you see the children doing that made you to think or feel the discussion needed to end earlier? In other words, can you support your claim with evidence from the video?
Second, I wonder if the decision to steer the children toward the correct answer or not depends on the “goal” of the discussion. If the goal of the discussion is only to get to the right answer, than I think makes sense to make sure that we all get “there”–to the right answer. But, now I’m curious: What do you think the goals of the lesson might have been, and what would it mean to make sure all the children got “there”?
In regards to ending the discussion earlier, would it be wrong to let them continue away from what may be the correct answer if their discussion becomes more scientifically involved? That is, is it ok to let them continue to justify a wrong conclusion logically and then let their wrong answer iron itself out?
The part about “thinking too hard” really took me aback. I think you’ve teased out some substantive questions from the student’s thinking, likely some very generative ones. I’m also curious to understand what your student thinks about this: what is thinking too hard? Thinking too hard for what? What does the student fear will happen if children think too hard?
My students sometimes throw around ideas like “you’re over-thinking it” and when I try to find out more about what they mean, they tend to talk in circles. I’ve stopped asking what they mean because it shuts down the conversation, as people get frustrated that they can’t put their feelings into words. But I haven’t found anything to ask instead. Maybe “what makes you worry that you are overthinking” or “what is X doing that makes you think he is overthinking” would be a better approach.
Yeah, the worrying about children thinking too hard struck me as well. I had initially thought about confronting that bit, but then decided to look for “good questions” this student was making contact with, and offer some ways of thinking about those questions.
I suspect they don’t actually mean “thinking too hard”… at least not like, “If you lift a weight that is heavy, and strain your back too hard, you might injure yourself. ” But, it’s certainly interesting.