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The other learning goals

September 5, 2012

The fourth and fifth essays in The Having of Wonderful Ideas – ‘A Child’s Eye View of Knowing’ and ‘The Virtues of Not Knowing’ – both deal with classroom goals beyond just learning specific concepts.

The first essay introduces four different types of ‘beliefs’ that students develop and four characteristics that Duckworth believes apply to each type of belief. The four types of beliefs are:

  • Beliefs having to do with knowledge of the world.
  • Beliefs having to do with interest in a given pursuit.
  • Beliefs having to do with being able to do something.
  • Beliefs having to do with sharing knowledge and knowing when to use other resources.

The first belief concerns disciplinary content and what are often called concepts. The second and third beliefs concern interest and confidence, respectively, and are the sorts of things that might be measured by the CLASS or other similar instruments. The last belief concerns different sources of information, for example, a student’s beliefs about the usefulness or validity of information from teachers, parents, the internet, etc.

Duckworth believes that the following characteristics are applicable to all four types of beliefs:

  • An opposing belief is conceivable and would give rise to different actions.
  • You may have learned the belief by being told, from evidence you were told to collect, or from evidence you gathered on your own.
  • A belief can be confirmed or disconfirmed by further evidence. (However, two people may disagree on whether a specific piece of evidence is confirming or disconfirming.)
  • A verbal statement of the belief may not really mean that the belief is being held. (You may state the belief because you think you are supposed to believe it or you may think you believe it but really your actions indicate a different belief.)

Duckworth goes on to give examples of each type of belief and to discuss how each characteristic applies to that belief. The idea that the same characteristics apply to each type of belief is interesting, but I’m not sure what to do with this idea. It might be worth returning to this chapter after I’ve read more about epistemic forms and games and see if I can relate the definitions and types of forms and games to Duckworth’s  characteristics.

‘The Virtue of Not Knowing’ is a very short essay giving two specific examples of students’ learning processes. The essay is essentially about valuing the process of learning – asking questions, getting excited, being confident enough to share an idea, challenging ideas, surprise, anticipation, etc.

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