Thursday, October 6, 2011

Class 9 & 10: 09/22/11-Expert Blindspot/Petrosino

After a few weeks without Dr. Petrosino, class began with an air of anticipation. Dr. Petrosino would speak to us in a matter of moments. A classmate remarked, “I don’t even know what he sounds like.”  Class, however, began as usual with the previous nights’ reading being introduced to us by Dr. Petrosino.  He asked the class, if any, what made this reading relevant to the course.  After a few haphazard answers, the class seemed to give up.  “Because your Professor is some narcissist, egotistical, self-absorbed jerk!” said Dr. Petrosino.  From there the basic tenets of the article were covered in depth.  The results from this study performed by Dr. Petrosino revealed interesting data from which a pattern began to arise.  Having expert knowledge in any given field, does not necessarily confer one the ability to teach within that field. 
As a result, a so-called ‘blind-spot’ exists.  Blind spot refers to the phenomena where by experts fail to realize the shortcomings of novices. Dr. Petrosino surmised the point that experts think of information in their field in an implicit fashion and construct schemas of information and recognize only patterns in their fields.  Their ability to innovate in their field is hindered by how experts process information.

Of interest, a student asked a question that had to do with how reliable was the information that stated students in the study ranked math problems in that level of difficulty. To which Dr. Petrosino responded that many studies had been conducted over such knowledge, so much so that it was almost considered a fact or a kind of “truth”. This segued into an interesting analogy brought up by Dr. Petrosino.  His analogy invoked some ideas brought up by Vygotsky.  He drew on the board one world in which the novice lives in the world of the student, child, learner or beginner. There is an element of not knowing and almost allowing for magical thinking to pervade because of the ignorance of the beginner.  In another world, there lies the scientific world a world of hard facts, patterns, ‘the ivory tower’ and hard logic.  In order to cross over from the world of the student to the scientific world, the beginner/novice must cross a bridge. Being that bridge, the teacher must fluidly traverse both worlds in recognizing the needs of the students and the structure of the expert world.

Another interesting issue that came up had to do with the act of teaching in a classroom that stemmed from the apparent problem presented in the previous analogy. Why is being a teacher so hard? More importantly to some of the class, what did PBI attempt to do that could be practical in a classroom setting? Many of the classes that we take in the UTeach program seem to deal with theory and how they might apply inside the classroom.  It seemed as if the class was beginning to question the point of PBI.   One not only need to be an expert in their content knowledge, but also in child development, classroom management, interpersonal relations, public relations, pedagogical expertise and etc…

From that point, a student argued that maybe this article has the wrong approach and a better approach might look at what kinds of things work in helping people arrive at the ‘right’ conclusions.  Dr. Petrosino commented that the current research is exploring something similar called learning progressions.  In these studies, researchers are looking at “what it means to move over time toward a more expert understanding.” (Pearson, 2010)

(Expert Blindspot discussion continued on 09/27/11)
Continuing from the previous class meeting, the first order of business was to address our weekend visit to McKinney Falls State Park.  “Did you get your lesson plans worked out?” asked one of the TAs. The class seemed to squirm in their chairs because the big day is fast approaching. We will have to teach! Logistics aside, Dr Petrosino continued to explore the tenets of the article.  One of the results that really stood out from the study seemed almost unbelievable. The result said that high school teachers with high context knowledge predicted that symbolic math problems are easier than verbal math problems.  In fact, the opposite holds true and students to do better at verbal math problems rather than symbolic math problems. Expert blind spot in a nut shell. Just because someone is considered an expert in a field, they may not know how others will approach that given field as a novice.

From there an interesting point came up.  How is it that high school and college instruction vary so vastly.  Why are the ideas researched at the university level in education not applied at the university level?  To which Dr. Petrosino answered, that he didn’t really know.  It could be personal preference, legal obligations on the state level, more freedom is allowed at the college level hence not as structured, and other external factors that influence each respective arena.   

At the end of his lecture, the class was left to work on their lesson plans. Having met Dr. Petrosino and experiencing his lecture, he is not to quote him “narcissist, egotistical, self-absorbed jerk”.  He’s funny and really likes what he does.  He only teaches two days out of the week, but the work that he does influences people all over the world.  It’s this far-reaching effect that others may not understand at first glance.  Despite his loss, Dr. Petrosino is a self-deprecating, funny guy.  Glad to have him as my prof!

For a quick look at learning progressions and an idea of what they entail, go to:
or for a look at different definitions of learning progressions, go to:

Works Cited

Pearson. (2010). Test, Measurement, & Research Services. Bulletin , Issue 12.

Expert Blindspot Presentation
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