Expert Ways of Seeing Accessible to Novices

Dr. Bruce Kirchoff
Department of Biology
UNC Greensboro

Recording at

Let me start off by saying that I was not the best student during this session.  In fact, I fell asleep about 45 minutes in!  The stuff was extremely interesting, but I have to admit, a lot of it was over my head.  I think this is partly due to my immediate concern of getting lesson plans ready for my students next week and not having enough sleep.  Regardless, below are the notes I took.

Botany is Kirchoff’s specialty.
Cognitive difficulty:  recognizing something like flowers but not being able to explain it to others.
Concept:  something is easy to identify for someone who has the experience, but it is difficult for that person to train others to do this.
This is especially true if what you are trying to learn something with a lot of variation.  Still, repetition was the way to teach.

Can we do this in math?  For example, when you look at graphs, you might be able to quickly discern that a linear equation does not go with a parabola.  Is there a way to learn from this and maybe even make it quicker?

Peter Horn asked about more basic tasks.  Bruce said that he is proposing this as an addition.  He is saying this is complementary and additive.  Still need to do some basic education.

Two types of perception
Analytical: used by non-experts.  Dog owner can’t see a winner.  Students learning to identify plants.  Part based.  Is reportable.
Configural or Holistic: dog judge immediately sees winner.  Is configuration based.  Is not reportable.  Gestalt.  Used to perceive faces.  Easy to perceive a face, difficult to describe to someone else.

Different parts of brain are used for these two types of perception.  This is proof that there are two modes and that they are different.

Quick Reflection:  Amazed how a botanist is being holistic and looking at how these two types of cognitive perception could be helpful for math teachers.

Hung in for 40 minutes, but needed to leave.  Picked it up next day by reviewing the last section…

Showed Kolb’s experiential learning model.  Concrete experience to observation to hypothesis to testing back to experience.
Look at graph
Figure out graph
Hypothesis of graph
Type into computer and get feedback

Bruce suggests doing this repetitively and it is effective since it is using all parts of the brain.

Someone asked where is the creative aspect of this?  Bruce likened this to learning to walk.  Child gets up, falls down.  Repeatedly.  Its not flashy, but it is a significant learning (to walk).

Bruce views this as math skills training.  He believes that creativity could be included but hasn’t gotten that far.
Experts have the ability to see the whole AND the ability to break it down into its parts.  Novices can break up the parts but don’t have the experience or knowledge to fully process it.

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One Response to Expert Ways of Seeing Accessible to Novices

  1. Small and “technical” tasks can be parts/steps in larger, more creative projects. A child learning to walk is walking towards something interesting, after all. I can picture a computer game with “little skills” as game mechanics and loftier math as strategy and tactics.

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