Monday, September 21, 2015

Memo 4 Week 5 Bottorff

·        Ginsburg’s Chapter 4: Not a Cookbook: Guidelines for Conducting a Clinical Interview

Ginsburg offers some helpful tips when preparing to conduct a clinical interview. Not surprisingly, most of his guidance also makes sense in the context of the classroom, albeit with a one to one interaction focus. Some of the most salient aspects of this article, to me, were that an active stance is necessary. This active stance refers to multiple tidbits of advice including varying tasks to both prevent student boredom as well as improve student performance given sufficient enthusiasm. It’s also very important to expect something reasonable given a student’s age and background. For example, it’s imperative to avoid using scientific jargon and instead use the student’s own language. Beginning with easy tasks also helps “warm” students up to the challenge of explaining their notions of scientific concepts.

Thinking ahead to the classroom, I’ve never heard of using clinical interviews as a method of pre-assessment until reading this article, but I see the merits immediately. It’s a much more personal method than most written pre-assessments, and despite not being practical in use for many students, the knowledge gained from just a few clinical interviews can be instrumentally essential.

·        Russ and Sherin’s Using Interviews to Explore Student Ideas in Science

Russ and Sherin emphasize some essential strategies for uncovering student ideas: contextualizing concepts, probing student responses, and seeding new ways of thinking. Contextualizing concepts includes asking questions in a context that is accessible to students’ initial and basic knowledge. Probing student responses corresponds to following up to students’ responses with either countersuggestions or questions that ask for further elaboration. Seeding new ways of thinking means asking students to apply their knowledge in a new context.

When I’m teaching students, Russ and Sherin’s knowledge will be applicable, for I already enjoy using countersuggestions and probing questions to informally assess student learning. In the future, I plan to make use of these interviews rather, or at least in conjunction with, written pre-assessments. Interviews give so much valuable information that can be missed when solely using written pre-assessments.

·        Greeno and Hall’s Practicing Representation: Learning with and about Representational Forms

 Greeno and Hall investigate the importance of education focusing on including a variety of representational forms in the learning process. I understood all too well one of the points that they were making with respect to technical representations often being taught as ends rather than as tools that students can use to understand and examine. The focus in present day society of success on assessments, from standardized tests to grades, belittles the purpose of education: to learn. Greeno and Hall mentioned that, as an example, it is imperative that students understand how to create and interpret graphs, not simply to receive passing grades but to understand the concepts behind graphing! As a future educator, I am committed to emphasizing concepts but I understand that, practically, standards are a necessary roadblock to conceptual based learning. Greeno and Hall also emphasized that a variety of representational forms is key. This variety allows students to understand that every representational form has strengths and weaknesses depending on the context. For example, sometimes one type of graph is more efficient at making a point, or a table might be easier to understand in some cases.


  1. Re: Ginsburg-- I definitely agree with you that clinical interviews seem like a really beneficial tool in the classroom to help gauge students' learning processes. However, I also wonder about the practicality of these interviews given time constraints, etc. How can we as teachers try to modify the clinical interview to include more students in less time? I guess sometimes, these interviews are done in groups to accommodate more students at once. Would this be as effective or effective in a different way?

  2. In response to your comment, I think that when we perform clinical interviews we need to be very aware of the purpose of a clinical interview. If we are researchers, then it is imperative to interview as many students as we can. However, if we are teachers with limited time, then it may be more important to use interviews as a way to access individual student perspectives.Perhaps a lot more information can be obtained from one well conducted interview than from a large number of interviews.