Sunday, March 3, 2013

The Intellect: Lilian Katz

This weekend I attended and presented at an incredible conference in Burlington - Co-constructing Contexts for Meaningful Engagement. The keynote speaker Lilian Katz was absolutely incredible. She had me laughing, thinking, and then laughing some more! She was engaging, well spoken, and so reflective.
I want to share a bit of her thinking and my reflections. I think it is important as educators to share knowledge and new learnings after workshops, so that others can benefit from all of the incredible information that comes up!
Lilian Katz, for those who don't know, is well known in the world of early childhood education. She is a role model and leader who has studied and written a lot about the "Project Approach". She is a professor who has taught at many schools and has presented in over 55 countries!
My incredible presenting partners and I with Lilian Katz!

What I took away from Lilian Katz:

Key Message #1 - Academic or Intellect?
"Teaching is helping the learner to understand what they already know better...more deeply"

Lilian reflected on the use of language and the different definitions that exist in language for the same word. She discussed the difference between academic and intellect. I added some of the definitions found on dictionary.com for the words.

academic - "not practical, realistic, or directly useful" "learned or scholarly but lacking in worldliness, common sense, or practicality"

intellect - "capacity for thinking and aquiring knowledge" "a person possessing a great capacity for thought and knowledge"

Lilian reflected that academic and intellectual skills both have a place and a role in the classroom. Intellect refers to "asking questions, making predictions" and "trying to make sense of the world by theorizing, synthesizing, and examining cause and effect relationships".

Key Message #2: All children have experiences...they just look different!

I have heard many educators say "my children do not have any experiences to draw on". Lilian gave an example of an inner city school where the educators shared with her that their children didn't have any "experiences". What about FOOD? All children have experiences with food.

ALL children have multiple "experiences" in their life - how they look and what they are depends a lot on their surroundings, home life, and community.

While investigating experiences and interests with children...
"Don't ask children, what is your favourite food?" - this is too self centred for them to respond to.
Instead, try..."What are some foods that you don't like? What is it that you don't like about them?"

Their responses and thinking has much more depth when we ask the right questions.

Key Message #3: Dispositions - some are inborn, some are built

Dispositions are difficult to define - Katz explained a definition may be "habits of mind with intentions as motivates".

-Having reading skills and having the disposition to read are two very different things.
-Feelings are dispositions (some are inborn - fear, anxiety, joy)
-Confidence is a feeling that is "learned from experience"
-children have to learn confidence (through opportunities to overcome difficulties)
-self esteem and confidence are NOT built from flattery or empty praise
-dispositions cannot come from "direct instruction" - (e.g., be generous)
-dispositions are be modeled, observed

The disposition to go on learning is a HUGE GOAL. To master knoweldge requires an interactive process such as "having discussions and arguments". How do we provide opportunities for these things in our classrooms?


Stay tuned for more reflections on Lilian Katz and how her teaching is connected to my learning in the classroom (I would like to post on "How we use language in our classrooms" and "Project Approach to Teaching: Our Dance Inquiry" and a bit of a reflection on our workshop "Emergent Curriculum meets Ontario Standards"). My head is so full of knowledge and I am feeling overwhelmingly inspired after this weekend - so I hope that my thoughts are clear!

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