Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Clinical Interviews and the like

Greeno and Hall's article did a good job connecting last week's reading with this weeks. The authors talk about teaching students how to use their own representations of various topics in order to remember, understand, and use as a launching pad from which to explore further. In my experience, drawing analogies and making connections really cements an idea in my brain. I think this may have been what many of my teachers were getting at when they asked me to come up with examples for such and such a topic. Who knows. One aspect of this that I had not thought of was the importance of many different representations. I've always thought of problem solving as sort of a multi-directional sort of process. Basically I cycle through four or five different possible methods I can use to solve a particular problem then pick one and run with it. I suppose this is sort of the same tune. By being able to see a topic from multiple angles, a student will probably have a deeper understanding of said topic and have a more mature thought process when it comes to solving new problems.

Say, that sounds familiar, eh? If only there were a way for us as teachers to gain a deeper insight into a student's thought process. hm.

Alright so clinical interviews. Lucky we're talking about them here because I'm about to do them in my practicum and I have no idea how I'm supposed to do them. Thankfully this week's readings were chock full of tips and ideas. I personally love the idea of a clinical interview. I think truly knowing one's own thought process is essential to improving it. Know thyself and all that. Ginssberg talks a good deal about trust between the student and teacher. This  makes sense because for the kid's entire academic career there've been right and wrong answers, etc. Not saying it's a bad thing necessarily, but it's just what's so. So putting a student in a situation where not only do they have very little concrete knowledge about the topic you're asking them about, they also have to think hard about their own thought process. Which frankly, can be pretty embarrassing, especially in front of an authority figure. Good thing I will have zero authority over the student when I give a clinical interview later this month. As far as in a real teaching situation, Russ and Gamoran suggested approaching this interview in a more casual, banterish kind of way more than an oral exam kind of way, which is way more fun for both teacher and student. Hopefully.

Alright so now comes time for the biggest question of our time: why? (of course, this question becomes significantly smaller when you qualify it with: why clinical interviews? But it's still an important question). I touched on this briefly before, thinking about why you think what you think does give you a lot more understanding when it comes to topics you do know and a lot more confidence when attacking concepts you don't know. As a teacher, it might benefit you by letting you know what the student knows and what they don't (pre-test, I think was used more than once). Furthermore, it helps you understand how the student thinks, and by extension, how the student learns. Finally, a clinical interview might have the potential to pique a student's curiosity, encouraging them to read and do research on their own time. Wouldn't that be something.


  1. I think that students learning how they think is an advantage to clinical interviews I hadn't considered. I am skeptical of their effectiveness, mostly because I wonder how much advantage they can give both the student and me with the trade-off of its time intensiveness, but this seems to potentially have merit. The thing about it, though, is that, since you'll only have enough time to clinically interview a few students for any one concept, you might not be able to get through your entire class, resulting in them missing out on those benefits.

    1. I agree that time constraints seem to place a pretty hefty limit on the effectiveness of clinical interviews. Also the unfairness aspect if you only choose to interview a few students should also be taken into consideration. However, I know a few of my english teachers made it mandatory for us to sign up for a time slot outside of class time to discuss the current project. Going through maybe three or four students a day could get through the whole class in a matter of weeks.

  2. Something I hadn't thought about until I just read your post, is that a "clinical interview" style of questioning a student could be very successful for use with students who may be struggling with the material. Like Phillip said, it would be difficult to interview an entire class all the time, but conducting an interview with the struggling students would not only build trust between the teacher and student (and possibly motivation?), but would also help the teacher to pinpoint where in thinking the student has gotten off track.

  3. I think whether or not we do the interview is dependent on our objective. If all we want to do is assess prior knowledge, then a pre-test could be appropriate. It would be less time intensive and could even address a little bit of student thinking if questions were posed that provided space for it (ex: Is this reaction endo/exothermic? How do you know?). However, if our objective is to understand student thinking and common misconceptions, then an interview would be more appropriate. So, dependent on our objectives, we may find alternatives methods in place of the clinical interview.

  4. I really enjoyed reading your post! The only thing that stuck out to me was the concept of possible pre-tests to understand what the student knows before the clinical interview. Exactly how effective would that be for clinical interviews?