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Scooped by Deb Nystrom, REVELN!

Keeping it Real: 4 Points to be Flexible in Teaching, Jane Elliot's Famous Experiment

Keeping it Real:  4 Points to be Flexible in Teaching, Jane Elliot's Famous Experiment | Agile Learning |

How to make it clear, satisfying, concrete, and real - including Jane Elliot's Famous Experiment and the impact it still has today in the third point, #3.  It's worth a re-read every so often to remember.

1) Make it clear

When I was a journalist, [I used] the inverted pyramid structure....the upper part …. represents the most important facts, ….and the lower part ...represents additional information …in order of diminishing importance. The pyramid [has] three sections: the “lead”, “body”, and “tail."  ...frame your...“lead” around a problem to be solved or an enquiry to be investigated...  [C]oncentrate on writing questions...  [W]rite a “big question” which forms the basis for the lesson. 


2) Make it satisfying


…Once I’ve opened a gap in my knowledge I must fill it; once a problem has been brought to my attention, I must solve it. This explains why I watched Disaster Movie through to the bitter end. Piquing curiosity … is also key to effective teaching. ….start by highlighting the knowledge they are missing. Another technique is to start a lesson by asking students to make a prediction.


3)  Make it concrete   [The Experiment]


…ensure your ideas “stick” by making them tangible. ...Take, for example, Jane Elliott’s famous “blue-eyed/brown-eyed” experiment with third grade students the day after Martin Luther King had been assassinated in 1968. 


....Most of Elliott’s students were, like her, born and raised in a small town in Iowa, and were not normally exposed to Black people. ....she divided the class into the brown-eyed and the blue-eyed children. She said the blue-eyed children were the superior group, provided brown fabric collars and asked the blue-eyed students to wrap them around the necks of their brown-eyed peers as a method of easily identifying the minority group. She gave the blue-eyed children extra privileges, such as second helpings at lunch, access to the new jungle gym, and five extra minutes at recess.   


….eventually those who were deemed “superior” became arrogant, bossy and otherwise unpleasant to their “inferior” classmates. Their grades also improved, doing mathematical and reading tasks that had seemed outside their ability before. The “inferior” classmates also transformed into timid and subservient children who even during recess isolated themselves, including those who had previously been dominant in the class. These children’s academic performance suffered, even with tasks that had been simple before. 


Once she had concluded the experiment, she asked the children to reflect by writing down what they had learned and it became clear that her students had come to deeply understand racism because Elliot had made it feel real, she had grounded an abstract concept in sensory reality and thus engaged her students’ emotions.


(DN:  See my comment below for a link to the impact of this experiment decades later on the children who were in the original class.)

4) Make it real


...Metaphor is good at making ideas stick because it brings ideas to life, it draws connections between new knowledge and existing knowledge.  For example, if you are trying to describe how electricity flows through a material, you’ll need to explain the structure of atoms. You might first use a metaphor which describes atoms as “nature’s building blocks” to help your students understand an atom’s function.


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Deb Nystrom, REVELN's insight:

The standout here is the controversial and visceral story of Jane Elliot's controversial blue-eye, brown-eyed experiment.  A paper that described the lasting effects of this experience is here, quoting the students in the original classroom some 40+ years later.  So as for concrete (and real) we have Ray Hansen,
…now 43 and an attorney in Rochester, Minnesota, says that because of Jane, “I go out of my way to offer a kind word to people of color. I don’t think I would do that if not for Jane. What Jane taught is woven into the fabric of my being. You cannot underestimate the impact that such an experience has had on us.


I don’t know how anyone who went through the experience can say that they have not been changed. Jane must get the credit she deserves for making the world a better place, and making us better human beings.”

Concrete and real, indeed.  ~  Deb 

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SlideShare Classic: 8 Reasons to Focus on Informal Learning

SlideShare Classic:  8 Reasons to Focus on Informal Learning | Agile Learning |

"Informal and social learning is core to successful learning.  These 8 classic reasons still apply today."

8 reasons to focus on informal learning.

They are:

  1. There are imperatives for informal learning
  2. Learning is a process, not a series of of events
  3. Most learning occurs outside of the classroom
  4. The vast majority of learning is social
  5. A lot of formal learning is ineffective
  6. People learn better when they are in charge
  7. There’s inherent inertia in formal approaches
  8. Informal and social learning are cost-effective

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Deb Nystrom, REVELN's insight:

Oldie but a goodie, as the conversation on informal and social learning is still current.  We still have a long way to go.  ~  Deb

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Classics ~ Adult Learning Theory & Andragogy Slideshare ~ Malcolm Knowles

Highlights that apply to technology training & learning, as relevant today.

  • Why specifics are being taught  (commands, functions, operations...)


  • Learning is task oriented within a context of common, needed tasks, not memorization


  • Teaching accounts for the wide range of backgrounds of learnings  (different levels / previous experience of learners)


  • Allows for self-direction, discovery - offering guidance through mistakes, offering help in learning if needed

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Deb Nystrom, REVELN's insight:

A good visual summary of the classic work of Knowles, useful as a refresher of the basics.  The SlideShare author has also encouraged free sharing of the "Presentation of Andragogy." ~ D

Ivon Prefontaine's curator insight, January 4, 2014 6:45 PM

All learning should be premised on the learner actively taking a role in their own learning.