Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Prior knowledge

Since I got you involved with my kidney stones and what I had done to it, i think I oughtt to give you an update. Well, I'm doing fine. As a matter of fact, its like as if nothing happened at all. Well, of course I am taking medication like antibiotics, and for whatever reason it serves other than give me a lot of gas, sodium bicarbonate. Other than that, I am doing fine. The good thing about the whole deal is that the stone was discovered early and that it did not have time to act up. If it did, I tell you, it would have been an awful experience. I should know. I had been hospitalized for this condition twice,

Now, on to business. I am not a real writer. For one thing, I am not sure if what I write has substance at all for I don't think I have the analytical mind of Sassy or Jardine Davis who see the issues in all its flavors, Furthermore, neither do I have the semantic snobbery of XP whose blog's title expectoRANTS alone is sufficient to catch one's attention for the pun it conjures is very effective, nor do I have the enthusiasm and wit of Batjay and the Ca t

When I started this blog, I intended it to be about education and everything related to it. However, I think it is not as focussed as Doc Emer's Parallel Universe which tackles issues on medicine and health. As far as i am concerned, I try to write about life and how I view it and relate it to education. Anyway, this got me thinking, what would be a good topic to write about? This got me thinking, why don't I talk about educational philosophy?

Before I delve into that, allow me first to discuss human nature as far as I remember it. There are three different views in how a person is brought out into the world. The first one is that a baby is born in a tabula rasa state. That a baby comes to the world like a blank sheet of white paper. Neither is a baby born with a smudge nor a speck of dust . The second one is from St. Augustine who gave us the concept that man is born with original sin, something we inherited from Adam and Eve. Now, that is not to be taken as it is. There is something more significant to that apple, I tell you. For how can an innocent fruit be so forbidden? Remember, the Bible is not a science book. Lastly, there is Freud's theory, the id which, according to him, is all what a baby at birth has in mind, a state of want want want. Hence, it is a primitive mind and contains all the basic needs and feelings. Later on, the individual will develop further into two more states, the ego and the superego.

In a similar manner, if we are to consider what is the best way to educate an individual, we should have a concept of what a learner is. Hence, the question, in what state do students come to the classroom? Should we view him/her as an empty bowl who will just be a recipient of every information we feed him/her? Or will he/she be critical of whatever information we offer? Whatever answer you come up with, that will be your educational philosophy. I am a staunch believer of the recent view that a student brings with him/her his/her own concept of the world when entering the classroom. This is what we call prior knowledge. Gone are the days when the teacher is viewed as the sole source of information - a star on stage, so to speak. Rather, a teacher is someone who is sensitive to the needs of a student, working on the premise that the student is a thinking being, etc. HE/She is more of a facilitator. A good teacher must know that when he/she presents a lesson, the student sort of incorporates his/her own concept and it is incumbent upon the teacher to know how to elicit the students' prior knowledge and working from there either redirects this knowledge to a desired path or declares a totally new information altogether debunking the prior knowledge.

You have been educated in school. Now, wear your thinking caps and bring your prior knowledge. What do you think?


cathcath said...

okay na topic ito.
my mom was a teacher and a religious woman too. but she
did not encourage us to believe everything what the bible says. that is where i came to differentiate religious from being spiritual and religious from being fanatic.

When my Religion teachers in my primary grades discussed Genesis,I asked them to clarify the statement
"Let us make man in our own image" So who is the US,I thought, HE was alone ?

Lest, you will think that I was already a smart aleck
that young, I got to confess that it was a prior knowledge acquired from my grandfather/nanny and his drinking buddies who questioned everything from the "apple" to the mistresses of the politicians. My grandpa said that the apple referred to extramarital affair.huh That means to say the politicians are fond of apples. hahaha

Dr. Emer said...

Pina-okay turuan sa lahat ay ang mga kinder-prep at grade one pupils --- sila ang matatawag na good examples ng "blank sheets of paper." They are so unlike those in high school and in college who are, in contrast, great examples of those with prior knowledge. Me kasabihan nga: it is difficult to teach old dogs new tricks.

I think age influences the existence of prior knowledge and the degree to which it can be debunked or enforced.

Another factor is the degree of how open-minded the student is. You would observe that there are students who get poor grades not because they are dumb, but because they simply cannot reconcile their prior knowledge with what is being taught.

I agree with you that the burden of whether to destroy or encourage the students' prior knowledge rests solely on the shoulders of the teacher. There are, I believe, only few teachers today who realize this, and who have the passion to run the extra mile to really get inside the heads of their students.

Thank you for raising this issue, Tito Rolly.

rolly said...

Cathy Ako naman, I don't think I am religious but I believe everything the Bible says. I also believe that the Bible was written by men inspired by God. I have to, otherwise, I don't have anything. Taht is where faith comes in. But what I don't just believe in is the interpretation given by man. I am critical when it comes to interpretation. History alone tells us that my religion, Catholicism, was given to me by Spanish oppressors. Especially tht it was given to me before Vatican II when priests had the feeling that they are even higher than angels... Hence, there are practices which were repressive. Have you read Urbana and Feliza? Its a book written by a priest telling girls how to behave.

I believe there are levels of understanding God. First, intellectually, so that you don't just bite whatever someone tells you and end up being a "fanatic" but you must also look at Him as a child, so that you don't end up being heretic. I believe the best way is to balance this two.

And since i am talking about faith, this is the reason I shy away from discussions about religion. I will say my piece and leave it at that. I'd rather discuss something else for after all, who knows who is right, really?

rolly said...

Doc Emer You would be surprised that even as early as the Prep, children already bring in their prior knowledge. They're no longer that blank sheet of paper. They have already spent about 4 years of their lives watching television, seeing pictures in magazines, etc.

There was this philosopher, I think his nme was Platom but I am not really sure, who was asked by a pregnant woman at what age should she be teaching her baby. Plato (to make the story simple) asked her how many months she's been pregnant. When she replied "three months", Plato said "Hurry! You are three months late." So, you see the concept of prior knowledge has been known a long time.

I'm sure you've heard mothers listening to classical music, or reading books, or talking to their babies inside their wombs... It's about building the baby's prior knowledge, don't you think?

red_door8 said...

tito rolly!!!
good to hear that you're better now =)

Sassy Lawyer said...

"semantic snobbery of XP"... hehehe di kaya himatayin yun?

There is only one school I personally know of where learning is based on the strengths, weaknesses and pace of each individual. It's a pre-school in Caloocan. Other than that, it's to each his own. I must say though that there are people who thrive better in the "to each his own" atmosphere. Very competitive. I did.

rolly said...

Karla And I'm glad, too. You're young, take care of yourself. I didn't and see how much my body aches in the morning.

Sassy si XP hihimatayin? Di naman siguro, hehehe

Are you talking about II? (individualized instruction) I think OB Montessori does that. But they're very expensive! OF course you did! Actually, I also believe in "to each his own" in some ways but of course I also have to remember that not everyone is blessed with the same intellect and the same resources...

goeman said...

but isn't that how we learn, by adding to our prior knowledge? we built-up information as we go along. and even if we don't have all the information, the brain has an excellent way of filling in the blanks. if you see, for example, the letters DO_, and it's missing the third letter, you fill it up to complete the word in order for it to make sense. so you add a G or T or A or C, any other letter that would make sense, depending on the situation and you're experience level. but sometimes it's ambiguous. that's why eye witness testimony is not reliable, because memory is not infallible. and what the brain cannot remember, it fills up with whatever it thinks would make sense to it.

as kids we derive most of our prior knowledge from experience. but there is also this idea of the ``collective unconcious,'' perhaps a kind of genetic memory that has been somewhat passed on to us from our ancestors through our genes (some call it instinct, some think it's more than mere instinct). this has been used as the explanation as to how migrating birds or butterflies know how to find and navigate their way through thousands of miles.

but prior knowledge or not, teachers always make assumptions about the student's state of preparedness. a grade 1 teacher cannot assume that the students already know how to write, although most of the kids probably already know how to (well, at least this was true when i started schooling, when most of the kids entering first grade haven't had any type of formal education yet. but now, almost every kid probably went to kidergarden).

i teach chemistry on the college level. learning chemistry, just like learning math, physics, medicine, law or any kind of discipline, is like learning a new language. you start by memorizing a lot of facts and information, which at the time of doing might not make a lot of sense. but once you've stablished an information pool, you can begin integrating the different concepts, start on the synthesis of the various ideas taught to you---and that's when you really got an appreciation for the subject. still, for those just beginning their chemistry studies, we make the assumption that the students at least have a working knowledge of algebra. we then proceed to buid upon that basic foundation. to distinguish the best from the good students, exam questions are made in varying degrees of difficulty.

point is, learning is like brick layering---you build it by stacking things on top of another. and the strength of your wall depends a lot on how strong your foundation is.

ting-aling said...

When I train clients, I always assess the knowledge of the client first(ie does he have computer knowledge? is he an organized individual? what's his educational background?) and then I proceed. I used to be a stiff, up to the dot and up to the penny kind of person. My boss said I had to be a little flexible. There are different ways to get to a certain place, different ways to skin a cat but the bottomline is, at the end of the day, you got to the place, you skinned the cat.

Sabi pa niya, you don't measure a man by his intelligence. You measure a man by the way he treats his fellowmen. Each one has his own talent. Your talent might not be the same as another's.

With these, I became flexible. the wisdom my mentor has taught. Sabi ko nga, susunod, Psychology na ang kukunin ko.

rolly said...

Renan Well, I think the bottom line is that teachers should know when a student's prior knowledge can be used to the maximum.

tingaling you had a very wise professor. There are a lot of professors who view their subjects as the most important thing in the world. Like "if you don't know this, you're damned for life" kind of thing... They forget to consider that people vary in interests, in capability, intelligence, etc... as a matter of fact, I blogged about this earlier. You can view it here

rolly said...

tingaling hindi nagwork yung link. Anyway, if you're interested, you can view the entry in my enries for the month of August. The title is "Not everyone was born to be a rocket scientist"

BatJay said...

gusto ko yung thought process na ginawa mo sa blog na ito tito rolly. hindi importante yung resulta ng sinabi mo tungkol sa prior knowledge relative to the yung fact na pinag isipan mo ang tungkol sa prior knowledge. if you put your students best interests at heart by thinking about these concepts, panalo na agad sila.

rolly said...

Batjay Actually prior knowledge is the buzzword today in education. So, hindi ko naman talaga pinag-isipan ng husto yan. But i'm totally for it. Palagay ko matagal ko nang pinaniniwalaan yan, ngayon lang nagkaron ng articulation sa buhay ko.

Luchie said...

tito rolly, i have been visiting your site since i started blogging. i am happy about your views on education as i am also an educator. let me share your readers this:" Children are God's gifts to us. What we turn them into is our gift to God in return."
i enjoyed reading your entries.more power!

bayibhyap said...

I read this post with a smile because I was reading Dr Emer's post prior to this and he quoted Socrates on the subject of marriage. If you get a good wife you will be happy. If you don't, you will be a philosopher. :)

I believe Ting Aling's approach is right. We have to take into consideration what a student has learnt before we choose an approach to reach him. But that is not the whole answer. As teachers, we have little time to quickly size up his mental condition at the point of communication, his ability to understand the concept we wish to impart, etc. That's why as teachers, we sometimes spend a little more time getting to know our students outside the classroom. This bond that is created sets a very good foundation for imparting knowledge.

When students respect their teacher and appreciate his genuine desire to impart knowledge for their betterment, half the battle is won and teaching becomes easier. You will note that I have said little or nothing at all about the philosophy of the mind and how it relates to the students. I am not a philosopher :). If the students can understand me and we have healthy discussions, this should suffice for me.

rolly said...

luchie_g Thanks for posting your comment. So, you're also in education. I am by accident. I never thought I would be a teacher. Especially that I was once a teacher's nightmare. We can only credit that to karma, I guess. Anyway, I had to learn the long and hard way. I doubt it if I ever had an impact on my first students, hahaha

Bayi YEs, how does one size up the children's metal condition? You can't do that in one sitting. Especially when you have 42 students in one class. You have to draw it out, be sensitive, be creative... I know... easier said than done.

Jules said...

tito rolly, fantastic entry as usual! wink! wink! i agree with you that we have a "tabula rasa" or a blank slate to begin with. (I think they discussed this philosophy in the book Sophie's World) For me, teachers are there to provide the stimulus, the catalyst for learning. With it, the pupil is motivated to learn more, to discover more and hence, to study more about a particular subject. I don't believe in spoon-feeding (like our h.s. history prof who just wrote his notes on the board the whole period and gives us periodic quizzes. no wonder many of my classmates are still "tabula rasa" when asked a world history question.) And I agree with Dr. Emer who says that the earlier you teach a child, the faster he is able to learn. They have a term for that... i think neural spasticity whereby a child whose brain is not yet wired with info can easily absorb more info than an adult. :) hope you post more entries soon!

rolly said...

Jusitos Thanks for the kind words. I think the stand on being born in tabula rasa state is being replaced these days. Psychologists believe that the young begins to acquire experiences while still in the womb. As I said, this is the reason why there are mothers who would listen to classical music, read only good novels, talk to the baby while caressing it inside her womb... like talking to a plant, huh? Maybe it does have an effect but who really knows?

Anonymous said...

ah, the constant demarcation between constructivism and instructivism. but yes, they need not be strictly set apart. the eye of the child is held in constant bewilderment. s/he absorbs the environment s/he is thrown into and makes sense of his/her experiences. and yes, learning instruction by adults is still crucial to veer the child towards the right educational objectives and perspectives. vygostky calls this the zone of proximal development.

R. O. said...

Wow Tito Rolly, I was cited here for semantic snobbery!!!!!!! HAHAHAHAHAHA!!! What can I say!?!?!?! Merry Christmas po!