What’s Grandma Talking About?

In this ever-changing world of education—with changes happening daily through the use, availability and performance of technology— does our teaching pedagogy mesh with the level of thought with which my students are operating? I do a good job of embedding technology in my lectures. I spend hours making and revising lessons, worksheets and presentations, but am I as successful as I should be? In this ongoing process, do I ever stop to adjust and revise my mindset?

What? Mindset? This came to my attention about a month ago when my suspicions were confirmed. When I talk about events or use illustrations to clarify textbook information, my students often have that dread “blank stare”. You know— that look that tells you that they don’t have a clue what you are talking about. I had never thought that examples which were perfectly clear to me were about as far from the reality or mindset of my students as we are from China!

English: Picture of three Michigan Yellow Book...

A good example of this occurred the day we were discussing short term memory. I mentioned that a good example would be looking up a phone number in the phone book. Once the number is found you repeat the number until you are able to dial the number on the phone. This would be an example of maintenance rehearsal: what you do between looking up the number and remembering it until you could make the call.  Well, was I taken back when all of the students in the class admitted that she did not have a phone directory in her home! I just assumed that everyone owned a phone book. Not so!

As fate would have it, my dear office mate, had just been showing me a website, www.beloit.edu/mindset, which dealt with the mindset of present day students. The information was gathered from a book written by Tom McBride and Ron Nief entitled The Mindset Lists of American History. I purchased the book and was amazed at how different generations had such varying knowledge. I highly recommend reading all or at least part of this book. It supplies eye-opening facts which may affect how you present information to today’s students. (See our Goodreads sidebar.)Mindsetbig

Having read The Mindset Lists, I am beginning to revisit my lecture material, especially examples I use. Does the material match the information base that my students have? If it doesn’t, then it’s my job to make sure that I make every effort to create a classroom that reflects things that the students are familiar with and can better understand.

How about you? Are you beginning to think that maybe your mindset doesn’t match your students’ knowledge base? When you make your new class preps, ask yourself the question “Will my students be able to connect with the information I am giving them?” You may be as surprised as I have been.

Have you had experiences in your classes that reflect a gap between your mindset and your students’ perspectives?  We’d love to hear those stories.

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One comment on “What’s Grandma Talking About?

  1. Brian says:

    This is graphic and drives the point home. Idioms and nomenclature constantly change. I’ll know the world is ending when I say “Pass the butter please” and only get blank stares.

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