Moments of Difficulty: Two Teachers’ Insights

November 14, 2008

Adapted from Beverly DiSalvo and Shirley Kahlert (Merced College), “An Integrated Model: A Cluster of Pedagogies.”

We gain understanding by asking students what they are thinking

It is impossible to predict what a student might be thinking or how someone might be working to understand a concept. We have learned to watch for “moments of difficulty” and ask students what they are thinking at the moment they “understand” a concept

In one video, Ysabel Solorio is writing seven cards which contain sentences using coordinating conjunctions. Follow the link above to view the video. Pay attention to her “moment of difficulty,” and what she asks to try to make sense of what she is doing. Her instructor expected that because of the nature of the exercise, she would understand that all the conjunctions function in the same way even though she might have trouble understanding the meanings. Ysabel’s confusion was not with the meanings. It was that each of the conjunctions were in the same class and joined the same kind of structures.

Read what students say about their moments of difficulty.

Like many teachers of developmental English, we have been looking for better ways to strengthen our students’ literacy skills. We hypothesized that a more integrated approach, combining reading, writing, and grammar, would be a powerful context for improvement.

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