January 9, 2007

On teaching misrules

Here's a good example of how teachers sometimes inintentionally teach misrules:

A teacher wants students to learn the concept "red." She puts three red triangles on the felt board. Here are the possible interpretations: red is red; red is triangles; red is only red triangles (not squares); red is triangles on the feltboard; red is anything on the felt board. Without further examples of what red is and is not, many students would—quite reasonably—pick up a wrong interpretation.

What they learn is entirely consistent with what you teach. It's not that they have funny heads. It's that you're a funny teacher.


silvermine said...

Or, red is three!

MikeZ said...

The old Greek guys had a handle on such things. One said that a definition tells you how a thing is like similar things. Another said it's not only that, it's how a thing is different from things that are not like it.

Triangles are shapes, like squares are, but they have 3 sides, not 4. Red is the color of apples, not bananas. And for really enlightened kids, it is a quality of how light reflects off things. Apples reflect red light, bananas, yellow.

It does seem strange, though, that a teacher would put a red felt triangle up and not go into some general detail about what the felt part is, what the triangle part is, and what the red part is.