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1 Certificate Course Discussions/questions! on Fri Oct 10, 2014 1:28 pm

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Certificate Course Discussions/questions!
Any questions/discussion about the course can go here Very Happy
Robert

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Hi Robert,
 
I read your paper, Models for EFL Theory and Methodology Derived from an SiR-Based Pilot Study on Japanese Cognitive Development, and was really interested in the results.  It seems it is perfectly natural for students around the ages 18-20 (most of our university students here at HBWU), to function at an A1 level or lower without support, and reasonable to expect that not all of them (even in the most optimal contexts) can perform at an A3 level. 
 
This leads me to questions regarding the differences in the cognitive development.  Some of our students seem unable to penetrate the A2 level even with all the scaffolding we can come up with, while some of their peers can run with the course content and have cognitively advanced (though linguistically limited) discussions.  Personally, I find that the difference seems to be black and white between classes, i.e., one class will be full of fruitful discussions and critical thinking while the students in the same cohort but different koma will completely skirt around any abstract ideas, or worse, never understand the nature of the discussion question and only engage in a short R3 (maybe) discussion instead.  In this example, the same curriculum and teaching context has been provided.  Do you think that it is more likely that this drastic difference in the students is biological, classroom environment (context) or both? 
 
Does the development of the A1-A4 levels (from Fischer’s model) correspond to the physical development of the PFC?  Is there a ‘critical period’ when the brain builds the neural ‘architecture’ for abstract thought?  Is it possible a person might miss this critical period and never fully develop?
 
Finally, as for my students who can’t pull off A1 performance even in optimal contexts: would you say that they are not physically/mentally ready for abstract materials?  Or is it possible that they have missed a critical stage of development (during their adolescent years of prepping for multiple choice tests day and night)?
 
I am really interested in hearing your input on this.  I am sorry I have been bothering you so much lately!  But everything is starting to take shape for me now.  Exciting stuff!
 
And, YES!  I would love to hear more about how to create high and low support conditions!  All information and suggestions from Robert or anyone else are welcome.

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3 Re: Certificate Course Discussions/questions! on Thu Oct 30, 2014 12:20 pm

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Hi there!

Great to see this. Smile 

(It looks like my original response disappeared, so this is my second response)

Lets start at the top and work our way down.
First, I noticed that you used the terms A1, A2, A3...
Of course we can understand what you mean from the context, but A1 is a term that's already being used for Actions1, Actions2, and Actions3 (the tier above Reflexes). For easy distinction we say Ab1 for Abstractions1... and so forth.

So, to clarify, here are the tiers in list form:

Reflexes (R1-R4)
Actions (A1-A4)
Representations (Rp1-Rp4)
Abstractions(Ab1-Ab4)


"Do you think that it is more likely that this drastic difference in the students is biological, classroom environment (context) or both? "


I see this (and hear about this often). It is a common issue in classrooms around the world, and the answer is simplistic, but the actual causes are extremely difficult to keep scientific tabs on. In short, yes, it is necessarily a combination of both of the factors that you mentioned. It isn't possible for the environment not to affects students' biology, and visa versa. This is why differentiated instruction can be very useful (see http://www.caroltomlinson.com). The key to do is to use multiple methods, matching students needs/interests, to reach a common goal, the keyword being common goal. If the goals are not the same, you are teaching multiple courses in a single classroom, this is not DI. (very important distinction -we can discuss this further if this interests you).

The other point I'd like to make about this is cycles. When classroom dynamics (however they are construed) start a positive spin, just going to class, or even in extreme cases, thinking about a class, can highly motivate students and teachers. The exact same is true for negative spins -- if you dread a class, chances are your students dread it too. There are some things that simply cannot be controlled by the teacher (such as the temperament of some 'problem students', and what they do or don't do outside of your classroom). The best we teachers can do, is realize the reality and try to turn negative spins into positive spins. This is not always possible and can be extremely stressful. Building rapport with your own students (even via non classroom related issues) can be the most elegant way to remedy such problems, as they start not wanting to disappoint you, on a personal level.

Does the development of the A1-A4 levels (from Fischer’s model) correspond to the physical development of the PFC? 


Yes, this is one of the strengths of skill theory. EEG results in the alpha band clearly show how 'construction site'-like cycles make their way around the brain, and when one full cycle completes, we see a spurt in performance that perfectly correlates with skill theory's timing. 


Is it possible a person might miss this critical period and never fully develop?


It depends upon what you are talking about, but the 'general' answer would be -yes. Although we have remarkable neuroplasticity, the fact that many people cannot lose their foreign accents, and other nonlinguistic issues, such as when repaired eyes with new technology cannot help a congenitally blind person see after they have grown up (even if the eyes are now fully functional) -- they have missed that window of opportunity.

for my students who can’t pull off A1 performance even in optimal contexts: would you say that they are not physically/mentally ready for abstract materials?

If you provide them with what you consider to be high support contexts and they still cannot perform at age/skill appropriate levels, there may be unique biological and/or psychological impediments that are hampering typical development. Full assessment and then appropriate interventions are probably necessary. 


Or is it possible that they have missed a critical stage of development (during their adolescent years of prepping for multiple choice tests day and night)?


Yes, this is a possibility.


how to create high and low support conditions
This is the crux of the matter, isn't it? Learning about DI is a huge step forward. Learning how to use the maxims is another (the maxims are there for teachers to learn what to do and what not to do in their classrooms --> all of them lead to high(er) support contexts.)


I'd be happy to continue this conversation; this is only the beginning. Keep the questions coming! Smile



Robert

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