Tuesday, September 22, 2015

McMullen Memo 4

These readings provided plenty of ideas in preparation for the clinical interview we have this semester. In the Russ and Sherin paper and the Ginsberg chapter, the authors outlined how to actually go about conducting a clinical interview. Russ and Sherin talked about providing context (by asking questions about the phenomena you want them to discuss), probing for understanding (by asking questions to encourage deeper thinking or further explanation of their ideas), and posing new ideas (by offering additional information or presenting a new perspective for them to consider). Ginsberg focused on a blow-by-blow of the clinical interview but heavily emphasized the need for the interviewer to be open to student ideas and to be actively involved in the interview (thinking of new questions, processing what students are saying, etc.). The third paper by Greeno and Hall had less of a clear-cut connection to the other two, but outlined the importance of students creating their own representations of information and providing necessary interpretation.
I found the Greeno and Hall paper very interesting and applicable. In many of my biology labs in high school, we always graphed the results of any labs. However, we were always told exactly what to do in regards to the graph (down to the intervals of the x and y axis). Greeno and Hall focused on the benefits of students creating their own representations. This is something that would be easy to implement in your classroom. Instead of providing step-by-step instructions for creating a graph, encourage students to find a way to represent the data that makes sense to them. At that point, the interpretation of the representation comes in to play. Because students are determining individual ways to represent data, it is necessary for them to interpret that representation and explain what it means, as well as, why they represented the data in that way. Implementing this in the classroom could stimulate some good discussion about why different students represented their data the way they did (good learning opportunity for other students), and it challenges the students to know more about their representation and what it really means (discourages pure memorization as the sole learning experience).

One of the questions I was left with concerned the cost-benefit of clinical interviews. For the first couple of years of teaching, I understand the benefit of clinical interviews. They provide you with the opportunity to see what your students are coming in understanding and where misconceptions may arise. However, after those first few years of teaching, I’m thinking the cost-benefit of clinical interviews may not weigh out in favor of the interviews. At that point, you’ve been exposed to a large number of students and ought to be well aware of where common misconceptions occur, in addition to, what background knowledge they should be coming in to class with. Considering that, does it really make sense to continue doing clinical interviews when they require a large amount of time that may be better used elsewhere? My thought is no unless you have a group of students that don’t seem to align to trends of your previous students, but I’m interested to hear what some of your thoughts are.


  1. I'm actually skeptical of the cost-benefit of clinical interviews from the start. I agree that it seems they have benefits (although no data was presented on the extensiveness of those benefits), but the cost for doing interviews even for just 5 students for a particular topic, with 5 classes, is rather extraordinary.
    I also agree with your insights into the Greeno & Hall paper. One of the things always discussed when preparing to publish a paper is what representations of our data communicate our points best? Can we come up with a better, easier to understand method? Do we need to group or order them differently? Students would definitely benefit from having to wrestle with these decisions.

  2. I think that in a teaching context, the clinical interview with a struggling student wouldn't necessarily take the same form as one typically done in a research study. You probably wouldn't film it or take meticulous notes; rather, you would have that relational chat with the student over the subject concepts and be able to let them guide you through their thinking, asking them outright to lead you step by step through their brain processes. This doesn't have to take 30 minutes, probably 10 max, but it can really help! I had teachers sit down with me while I tried to explain to them why I didn't understand the material and they helped dissect my thinking and set me on the right track.

  3. Perhaps in the event that we as teachers will not have time to do a formal clinical interview, a plausible option would be to structure any sort of meeting with students in the same way. For example, if a student comes in with questions about the current topic, we could take the opportunity to examine their thought process. Obviously, one big difference would be we'd have to make sure they leave the meeting with the correct knowledge, but I think similar principles could definitely be utilized.

  4. I'm not necessarily sure I understand the concept of a clinical interview being cost-effective. Can anyone give me a better understanding?

  5. I have the same thought. I think clinical interview is great for identifying lower performing students in a secondary school setting and try to get them to catch up with the rest of the class. It will tell you a lot but it also requires much effort.