Aug 182016

Continuing on the #BlAugust train! Yay.


To help set the stage for the Big Questions of Knowing and Learning, I will be using the results from this survey. I asked on Twitter for teachers to take it, and it will be required for my learners to take it. (Same questions, but a different set of instructions and explanations on the prompts.)

I will take the results from this survey to juxtapose their responses so we can evaluate what it means to Know, to Learn, and to Believe.

For example, looking at the teacher responses from Twitter, we can see that the teachers mostly all agreed that “Nurture” had the largest impact on ACT, SAT, and AP Scores. Notice, however, the difference between asking about “Success in AP Calculus” and “Success in Science”.

calc  science

Notice all the “3” responses in Science? Those responses are interesting. For whatever reason, the exact same teachers who responded to this survey thought that “Nuture” is more responsible for success in AP Calc than it is for Success in Science. Or, rather, there were more teachers who weren’t sure if “Nuture” was as responsible as “Nature” so they selected a neutral response.

That is interesting. That brings up the immediate question of Why?

Juxtaposing these type of responses on the first day with college learners will give even more variety of responses (at least I hope the responses are varied.)

Also, look at the responses to these questions.


It makes sense that teachers would be almost identical in responses to these two questions, but I am hoping for a more varied response to the question from college students.

Using their own responses will be a common theme in the course. Each day they will have to enter their reading responses into a google form. This allows me to read their responses quickly, sort and categorize them, and then select items for discussion in class that afternoon.

In addition, I will be using the Annenberg Learner video called “A Private Universe”.  If you have not seen the first video on the page, do so. The video is dated (1980’s) but it is well worth the 20 minutes.

The video starts with the interviewer asking questions at a Harvard graduation about why there are seasons, and then moves into the classroom to uncover learner’s misconceptions.

This is a wonderful video to show my learners how even though teachers may think they have taught something, the learners don’t know correct things or didn’t learn correct things from the teaching.

How do we Know? How do we Learn? [which ends up at How do we Teach?]

The main projects  in the class are two Clinical Interviews, and a deeply, well thought out lesson plan.

Along the way, we dive into the different theories of knowing and learning, so the learners can select one for their own lesson plan and utilize it well.

So, the first day will involve discussion about their own ideas, discussion comparing them (novices) to experts (teachers), interviewing clinically (A Private Universe), and a closure with ….


Not sure.

I have not done closures on this type of material before.

A simple written reflection seems too … blase? standard? uninspired? Yes. Uninspired.

I need to think deeply about closures, next.


Aug 172016

Another #BlAugust post. Staying strong on building the habit of writing in the morning.


I finished my syllabus for Knowing and Learning. I have all the questions written for each reading section (a huge thanks goes out to Walter Stroup at UT Austin for his course site that has his questions on the readings).

The only thing left are the daily activities, and I don’t feel the pressure to have those 100% nailed down for the entire semester before it starts. I would like to, but I won’t.

Here is how I envision the semester.

  1. I will use the Canvas course site from the University to host all of the readings. There are 69 readings on the syllabus right now, all PDF files.
  2. I will create (as in I have not done this yet) a google form for each day, and each form will have the questions for each set of readings. The form will be linked to from the course site. This way, I can receive the comments, answers, and thoughts of the learners in the class before the class is held. I can then use some quotes and response trends to spark and drive the conversation in class.
  3. Each class period will have 5 points associated with it. Submitting the responses and participating in class is how the 5 points will be earned.
  4. Each class will have both small and whole group discussion as we build the knowledge of the different theories of knowing and learning.

What I still need to do:

  1. Build activities that will cement the understanding of the readings and make the theories more understandable.
  2. Figure out a strong way to close the lessons each day. Closure is an essential element of good teaching, and I am not confident I have thought about closure yet.
  3. Re-read each article deeply before each class so I am ready to guide the conversation. This is an ongoing issue, but it is one that must occur!

If you want to take a look at my syllabus, please feel free. The file is: NVTC 201MW Syllabus. The only thing I don’t have in the syllabus is the citations for the different readings. I have them all in PDF form, but have not gone through and cited them yet. YET. I guess that is something to add to the list above.

Any feedback? Am I missing a pivotal reading in the Theory of Ed? Do you have a favorite that is better than one I selected?

Thank you for any thoughts!

Aug 122016

Another #BlAugust post, but this is an fired up post.


I was going to blog about my Knowing and Learning preparation today, but a comment from a college learner in my program made me more and more upset as I thought about it.

The learner (I redacted the name to protect them) said,

“I was just discussing this with another educator. He is an elementary school teacher in his third year of teaching. I’ve been buzzing a lot about how I am going to be an innovator in the classroom rather than passively following orders even if I disagree with the resulting pedagogical approaches. This educator essentially told me to “protect” myself by doing what I’m told.” (emphasis added)

Stop and think about that bolded sentence a moment. That means this three year veteran of the school district feels that he must protect his job by just following orders, regardless of what is best for the learners or learning. The teacher asked a follow up question,

“And when the parents complain? When administration comes after you? What then?”

The district here in my city is incredibly supportive. It is focused on learning, engagement, and encouraging teachers to take some risks and try to push boundaries in the best interest of the children.  Yes, I have heard that at the elementary level the curriculum is more scripted, and yes, I have heard that there are schools where the principals can be assertive in making demands of the teachers.

BUT, to instill this kind of fear in a still new teacher (he has only taught 3 years, he is still at the beginning of his career!)

I am stunned.

I am really … stunned. That is the only word I can come up with. Because this teacher that teaches in fear is passing that fear onto substitutes (my learner is a sub in the district), and that fear will be passed onto pre-service and future beginning teachers.

I call foul.

What have we, as educators, done to allow this fear to foster and fester?

What, as educators, are we doing to push back against the fear?

What, as educators, are we doing to take back ownership of our profession so that we can teach with positivity?


Teaching is a political act. We need to recognize this fact. We need to act accordingly and not allow others who are not educators to define our classrooms and our teaching.

I am fired up over this, which is a great place to be at the beginning of the school year.

Want to know what my learner said?

I didn’t want to answer instantaneously because the topic deserves so much more thought than I can possibly perform in but a moment, so I responded by saying, “I may not have the answer or strategy now, but that’s why I’m in school. That’s what I’m actively working towards figuring out.”

Freaking awesome.

One challenge I have now is to make sure this future teacher, and EVERY future teacher, leaves the program with the skills and answers to this question.

Fired. Up.


Aug 102016

Another #BlAugust post! Doing great and creating habits here.


This morning I was walking to the the office across campus, I saw a person standing outside a building looking around. He looked kind of lost, which is not unusual on campus this time of year, so I asked if I could help him. He was looking for the science building, so we started across campus.

Now, it used to be that I would have just showed him where he wanted to go and said goodbye, BUT, I am working hard at being more outgoing.

So, after a moment of hesitation, I reached out and said, “Hi, I’m Glenn Waddell” and offered my hand. He said “Hi, my name is xxxx xxxx” and offered his, and told me he just dropped off his daughter for the R.A. training.

Bells went off in my head, because the last name was kind of unusual, so I asked if his daughter was yyyy xxxx?

Sure enough, it was. His daughter is a sophomore participant in NevadaTeach!

So, because I was willing to shake his hand and introduce myself, I had the privilege of walking across campus with the wonderfully nice person, telling him how much I loved his daughter, and telling him a little more about the program.

You know what. We just cemented a relationship that will last. On a university campus, he randomly bumped into someone who not only knew who is daughter is, but knew her enough to say nice things about her and give him a mini tour of the campus. That is the kind of outreach that will last a long time.

I hope I made that persons day. I hope he drives home thinking about what a wonderful place UNR is, and how supportive NevadaTeach is.

And I learned that shaking a hand and making introductions isn’t that hard (although I know it, and I do it, and I still hesitate so often) and it pays off tremendously.

I made someone smile and feel good today before 9am.

My day is complete.

Now, get back to work, Waddell!

Aug 092016

I missed two days of #BlAugust, but I don’t feel bad. I took Sunday off on purpose, and was so frustrated with how my course planning was going I spent until 6:15pm at my office working on it last night. Grrr. But I made some strong headway.


I sat down yesterday with Walter Stroup’s (University of Texas, Austin) plan for Knowing and Learning, my plan (which is based on his plan), the readings in order in my directory, the questions I had identified from the readings as important, the calendar of courses with the readings listed, and ….

Oh what fresh hell is this.

So many important pieces of information, all in different tabs, different files, different folders. I seriously sat there after and hour and asked myself why I was making it so complicated.

Einstein - make it simple no simpler

I was NOT making it simple. I was making it far more complicated than it needed to be.

So I sat at the computer, with my two different Word planning docs, two different tabs open, two different folders of files, and collapsed it all into ONE document and ONE folder.

Now, this is what my planning document looks like.


1b is the second meeting in week 1, (1a is the first meeting in week 1), the topic of the class, the questions the learners will respond to, and the readings are all listed.

In my folder, the names are 1b Lehman Behind the SAT and 1b Atkinson Reflections on admissions tests.

Next up, these questions will be put into a google form, and each class day will have a google form that must be responded to prior to class (I am making the deadline by 12am the night before). This will allow me to read the responses all together in one document so I can get a gauge of the variety of thought before class.

It will also allow me to pull quotes for class for discussion, elaboration, and development of the ideas without putting a name to the quote. I can also change some words so the learner does not recognize their own words, that way they don’t say “Hey that is me.”

At this point, I have almost every single day blocked out like this. There are 6 days I am diverging form Stroup’s plan pretty solidly this first year. I have to go through those readings, and reduce the number. One day, right now, I have 9 different articles listed. LOL. No way that will be able to happen.

Keep it simple, but no simpler. I lost sight of this as I was thinking about calendars, readings, questions, progression, and development of ideas.

I am back on that simple routine, and can now refocus the efforts on those ideas. Amazing how having everything in one document helps.

So why did I veer off into confusion land? Because the syllabus needs to be in one format, but my planning needs to have more columns, for one. Now I realize I should plan in the more columns format and just delete columns, copy and paste for the calendar and syllabus.

Keep it simple. I can do that. (now)

Always remember to plan ahead

Aug 062016

Keeping up the #BlAugust posts! Yay. Weekends are harder to do.


Yesterdays post where I questioned my skills and abilities in questioning created two comments. Both of them helped me directly shape the focus of what I am doing in this class. First, @Druinok suggested I get a hold of some of the AVID materials, check out Making Thinking Visible, and think about Socratic Seminars as a structure to the course.

Bust of Socrates from wikimedia

I love that idea! Socratic Seminars (SS) give a great structure and fit neatly with the ideas and goals I have for the course. But, some resources to fall back on and refer to regularly would be helpful. With a little google work, I found these that I plan on using in one form or another.

Facing History ( has a good page on SS, the rational, the process, etc. I like this page for its simplicity of thought. It is clear and directs me to the info I need.

Next up, from, a 4 page PDF on how to begin, manage, and work within the structure of SS. This is a detailed document, but not so detailed that it can’t be used as a quick reference in the middle of the semester when I will need it.

Next up, a 31 page PDF from AVID*on how to run Socratic Seminars! Wow. If you need some detailed instruction in SS, this is the document for you. I found a lot of valuable tips and techniques in it. This document has teacher advice, learner advice, black line masters, etc.

Finally, a 1 page poster PDF for learners on the rules of SS. I am not sure if I will actually use this info yet. I may just discuss it, and not hand it out.

The other comment from Andrew reminded me that even though the skills of teaching math are not transferable, the PROCESS I used to learn how to teach math is still in play, and that process is what I will need to focus on over the next couple of weeks.

Thank you Andrew and DruinOK. You both helped me tremendously. I appreciate it greatly!

*The star is because Avid doesn’t like to share. I received the DCMA request (they didn’t even have the courtesy to leave a comment or communicate with me) to remove the file.

I did. They suck. Here is their lawyer speak for everyone to read.

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Original Work: Strategies for Success Teacher Guide


Aug 052016

Hitting number 5 for #BlAugust on the 5th of August. Excellent. So far so good!


Transitioning from teaching mathematics to teaching theory is difficult. Not because of the content, that is just reading and understanding what I read. No, it is difficult because of how I define teaching.

Telling isn’t teaching. I decided a long time ago that I was a constructivist teacher, and so to get learners to understand the meanings of mathematics and practice the skills of solving, decomposing, composing and all of the other essential practices of good algebra, all I had to do was practice questioning techniques and direct my questions towards the goals and standards I was teaching.

I read books like the Princples to Actions,  5 Practices for Orchestrating Productive Math Conversations, and Mathematical Mindsets. Moving into other deeper books on questioning like The Art of Problem Posing, or Powerful Problem Solving just extended those skills and allowed me to become a good math teacher.

There are no standards for Educational Theory (although I have other professors syllabi from other programs.)

There are no books to teach me how to teach Educational Theory (yea, I looked.)

Shoot. Now what. I feel like this.

climbing the hill

This course has no skills to practice (good writing is a skill, of course, but there are no skills to practice for the course alone). This course is a purely theoretical knowledge course. Out of the theory, the learners will be able to place themselves into a tradition, and develop skills within the traditions. But, … I am faced with a conundrum.

How to teach what could easily be a lecture course, pure and simple, without falling into the easy trap of creating ppt slides from the readings and going over them?

To keep myself from doing this, I have not allowed myself to even open PowerPoint. The only docs I have open are Word planning docs and the pdfs of the readings.

Good, step 1 complete: Define the boundaries.

Step 2: what is the goal of each day? What do I want the learners to walk out the door after 1.25 hours knowing?

Step 3: What questions am I going to ask prior to class to focus the learners on the readings?

Step 4: What questions will I ask in class to elicit deeper understandings of the readings and prompt discussion?

Step 5: What activities will we do in class that reinforce the readings and create deeper understanding of the material?


As I look at the list, I realize something. Were I doing this course as a lecture course, the list would not change at all. The exact same steps, questions, and problems would be there for doing a lecture class as a more involved, engaging, discussion course.

Doing this process has given me a much better appreciation for the amount of effort that goes into teaching a theory course. No wonder the philosophy courses I took in grad school (the first time) were taught off of copies of copies of notes. Once you go through all this effort to develop questions and activities you don’t want to change them.

Is that really an excuse? I don’t believe so, but it is an explanation.

I am through the third day with steps 2 and 3. I have some activities in mind as well. But, with respect to step 4 I am at a total loss still. I need to know my learners better, but I can’t go in cold.

This is tough, but so much fun.

But I am not sure or confident that the questioning skills I have spent the last 9 years practicing apply here.

Aug 042016

So far, doing well on the BlAugust posts. And talking through the justifications for my ed theory class is helping me.


So the second through fourth day of the class is all about Assessment. Why do I start with assessment? What am I having the learners read?

The justification is a paraphrase of this quote: Mathematics assessment is the process of making inferences about the learning or teaching of mathematics by collecting and interpreting necessarily indirect and incomplete evidence. (from Mathematics Assessment Literacy, pg 21.)

The paraphrased / modified quote for class becomes: Assessment in Math and Science is the process of making inferences about learning or teaching by collecting and interpreting necessarily indirect and incomplete evidence.

Assessment is about making INFERENCES.

Assessment makes those inferences from NECESSARILY indirect and incomplete evidence.

I start with Standarized Assessments (ACT and SAT) and move on from there to Formative Assessments over the course of 3 days.

The reading list over the 4 days is:

  • Lemann, N. (1999). Behind the SAT. Newsweek, 134(10), 52.
  • Atkinson, R. & Geiser, S. (2009). Reflections on a century of college admissions tests. Educational Researcher, 38(9), 665-676.
  • Sacks, P. (1999). Standardized minds: The high price of America’s testing culture and what we can do to change it. Cambridge, Mass. Perseus Books. (chapters 1 & 2, origins of testing and cost (not financial) of testing).
  • Popham, W. J. (1999). Why standardized tests don’t measure educational quality. Educational Leadership, 56(6), 8-15.
  • Feynman, R., Leighton, R. (1985) Surely you’re joking, Mr. Feynman! (Adventures of a curious character). New York: Norton & Company. (only the chapter on Brazilian Science teaching)
  • Popham, W. J. (2003). The seductive allure of data. Educational Leadership, 60(5), 48-51.
  • Black, P., & Wiliam, D. (1998). Inside the black box: Raising standards through classroom assessment. Phi Delta Kappan, 80(2), 139-144, 146-148.
  • Gardner, H., Kornhaber, M. L., & Wake, W. K. (1996). Intelligence: Multiple perspectives. Fort Worth, TX: Harcourt Brace. (chapters 2, 3 and 5)

The goal is to move from the history of national assessments, to the idea of formative assessments and how to do formative and summative assessments well in the classroom.

In addition, the focus on biological (Nature) forces and assumptions that went into the creation of the testing movement will be discussed.

Hopefully, at the end of this progression, learners will have an understanding of the history of the national movement of testing, why these tests are given, what is learned from these tests, as well as having the stronger grounding in the theory of formative assessment and how and why to focus on formative assessments in the day to day teaching.

The Black and Wiliam article is required reading for every teacher, as far as I am concerned. It is an article that I will be referring back to repeatedly.

The Popham articles are interesting and very anti-testing. I am okay with that (clearly, because I am assigning them). The rest of the articles are not all that favorable either.

Teaching is a political act.

I will not just teach educational theory to reinforce the status quo.

I mean, after all, this was in my Twitter feed THIS MORNING.


The quotes are from a Pennsylvania Department of Education representative.

Assessment is the issue with which I will start the Educational Theory class. I believe it is important that future teachers understand the assumptions and implications such statements have for the learners in the classroom.

Aug 032016

Day one of my Knowing and Learning class will be about the syllabus, the 4 major assignments, and starting the conversation regarding what it means to Know something or Learn something.

There are going to be 4 major assignments. Two interviews, a midterm, and a lesson plan for the final. The first interview is a “expert v novice” interview. An expert is someone who has a PhD in the topic at hand, while a novice is a freshman / sophomore in the topic. My learner will come up with a short, open ended question set of interest, and compare the difference between how experts and how novices view the material. In math, it could be about factoring quadratics, or polynomial long division.

Next up is an interview of an expert regarding questioning techniques and going deeper on the issue presented before. How does the expert question others on this topic. Then a midterm on the theories presented so far, and finally a lesson plan, written according to one of the theories in the class, taking into account the information gained in the two interviews. This will pull the entire course together.

But back to the first day. How DO we get learners to understand that not everyone Learns the same things from the same lesson, and how do we get learners to understand that Knowing is different from Learning? That is a new concept for many learners. I am going to use an instrument that I asked people on Twitter to answer.

First off, because they are in my circle of friends on Twitter, I can assume these individuals are mostly teachers of math. That is a pretty good guess. There may be some higher ed people in the sample, perhaps some science teachers, but … mostly math.


Um, no. That is a totally incorrect assumption. Or is it? Just because someone majored in something other than math, that doesn’t mean they don’t teach math (after all, I majored in Physics and Philosophy.) Still, assumptions can kill.


Okay, I have to put this here. I like Google Forms, but COME ON GOOGLE! Why don’t you have the words on the graph? This is the scale used for the following responses.

act sat



I think it is interesting to note that the teachers are falling mostly on the “nurture” side of things, but not all, and not always. And notice that on testing, regardless of the test, there is almost complete agreement, but there is a difference when it comes between math and science.

Here is the scale for the next graphs.

scale 2

Compare these next graphs. Good teachers are born, not made. Most of the responses were disagree, but 7 people said no comment or agree. But, 9 people said disagree or no comment to the Theory is important to becoming a good teacher. (BTW, I was very happy to see this group had the same outcome for being a physicist as a teacher, that made me smile.)

What does it mean that more people think teachers are made, but at the same time, not all of those view theory as important? Hmm.

born not made



math facts

Interesting. Strong agreement between Math Facts and Seasons, but almost total agreement that calculus does not need to be a graduation requirement. Interesting dichotomy between the graphs. Why? Why do we place some knowledge at a higher level than other knowledge? Why isn’t all knowledge equally important?

If all knowledge is not equal, is all learning also not equal?

Honestly, I expected this type of response from the educators who use Twitter (totally a convenience and voluntary response sample.) There is nothing unexpected here. But look at the variety still. There is not complete agreement on anything.

I am excited to see what my learners say. I believe they will have much more varied responses to everything, which makes the entire exercise more interesting. Now, however, I can also show them what a group of “Experts” in education think as compared to their responses.

Which lets me set up the “Expert v. Novice” interview event better.

Thank you Tweeps. You just made my first day even better!

(btw; any other conversation or comments you want to make? These are really interesting questions!)

Aug 022016

Since I committed to BlAugust (see the #MTBoSBlaugust hashtag) and I am in a course design hole developing an Educational Theory course for my program I decided to merge the two ideas together.

I think it is important for teachers to regularly revisit the theories we learned in ed courses, because I know that when I looked at a particular theory after teaching for several years I saw the theory in a new light and had a different understanding of the approach. With that in mind, over the next month I am going to lay out the structure, the readings, the justification for the readings, and some of the questions I plan on asking.

This course is specifically for math and science majors who are also double majoring in education. At that point, I can make several assumptions about my learners.

  1. These learners are all comfortable with math up through (and some beyond) calculus. Even if they are in the precalc courses at the start of the semester, they are required to take calculus, so the ideas of algebra and infinitesimals are will not be foreign to them.
  2. All of the examples, questions, and discussions are to be centered around what it means to know math or science [facts, processes, methods, ideas, etc], and / or how to learn those same set of ‘things’.
  3. Finally, I can assume that these learners are committed to the course and the program. This is the third course in the program, not the first. These learners have already been in an elementary and middle school classroom teaching lessons they have written themselves. They have a small amount of experience, they have had frustrating lessons, great lessons, and they have written their own lessons.

With those three assumptions made, I will start outlining the thinking that is going into the lessons. I have a calendar already mapped out for each class period in the semester. I have the assignments identified, and questions.  No, I am not starting from scratch, but using another professor’s template who teaches this course at another University in a similar program.

With this in mind, my goal of the “talking it through” here is to make sure that I am connecting the first day of class to the last day of class. Is each class period started and ended with intentionality. What I want to avoid is the feeling of randomness that can occur the first time a course is taught. And this IS the first time this course will have been taught at my university and by me.

No pressure.

Just do it right the first time.

Tomorrow’s topic: Week 1: Intro’s and Assessment.

Happy BlAugust!