> Mrs. O'Neill's Blog: Out of the comfort zone, into the learning zone?

Friday, May 18, 2007

Out of the comfort zone, into the learning zone?

I’m just back from the second part of my Feuerstein training and I'm starting to reflect a bit on my experience. This time round we were introduced to three other ‘instruments’ for teaching thinking skills to pupils.

My overall experience of the course was very positive. I enjoyed learning about something new, and thinking about how I was actually doing that. I also realised just how faulty some of my own thought processes were. I wouldn’t have called myself a woolly thinker, but I rely heavily on what I would have called ‘common sense’. I call it ‘common sense’ –but don’t push me to define it because I probably would get into one of those ‘you know what I mean… it’s sort of like…’ conversations which Miki Gorodischer (our Israeli Feuerstein trainer) said was our attempt at making the other person do the thinking work.

If I was to sum up my experience on the course in one word I would say that it was challenging. And this challenge was presented on several different levels. The first was in the sheer effort of encountering and interpreting a lot of new terminology regarding the cognitive processes. The next challenge was sustaining attention in a classroom for what seemed like lengthy periods of time. I like to think I’ve got more stamina than my TV watching pupils – but my brain started complaining long before the end of most of the sessions.
The final challenge was in the teaching style of our trainer. Miki is wonderful and brought a cultural diversity to the course which added an extra layer of interest and drama to the sessions. For me, however, some of the aspects of her teaching style were just a little too challenging! I found myself spending more and more time thinking about how she was presenting the material and not the material itself. But hang on, isn’t this one of the main goals of the Feuerstein training? The course aims to be ‘content free’ and transferable. In other words, the methodology, not the subject is intended to be the main focus of the training.

Miki’s style of mediating seemed at times confrontational but it did make us think, and question and try to step up to the mark. I certainly mean to use some of her techniques in my classroom to provoke some deeper debate.

Please comment – especially if you have been on the course!


Wendy said...

A bit confused about what Fruerstein training actually is. Perhaps it's just my Saturday-brain malfunctioning but I couldn't quite find a satisfactory answer on the website.
Would love to know more/anything.

Mrs. O'Neill's Blog said...

Sorry Wendy-
I didn't explain very well what the Feuerstein course was! I was on a 6 day training programme which was being hosted by an organisation called Tapestry who are attached to Learning and Teaching Scotland.

The course was an introduction to Feuerstein's I E - Instrumental Enrichment course. Feuerstein is an Israeli psychologist who has developed several programmes aimed at improving the ability of children to learn.

On the course we were introduced to the theory behind the course and some of the 'instruments' or exercises that are used to improve the cognitive abilities of children.

To reduce it to its most basic level -it's a course which can be used by teachers and educational psychologists to help both children with learning difficulties, and indeed all learners to improve their 'learning potential'. Feuerstein believes that intelligence is not fixed -but can actually be enhanced/improved by systematic 'mediating' (a specific form of teaching).

Billy O'Neill (no relation!) is a Scottish trainer who could provide a bit more enlightenment than me. His website is http://www.feuersteintraining.co.uk/index.htm

Wendy said...

Thank you. I now feel enlightened! Very interested in the approach. Assume you recommend the training?

Mrs. O'Neill's Blog said...

I would definitely recommend it -but with one or two caveats. I think the course- which involves 6 days out of school -could be better organised. I also think that it needs to be positioned within the current initiatives in Scottish education. Just noticed that a talk on the subject of Feuerstein within the Curriculum for excellence is planned for Sett 07 -so maybe that is underway already.