Perspectives and Peers 5, Interview with the Subject

Note: This is a selection from Perspectives and Peers, part of tdaxp‘s SummerBlog ’06

While the interview subject, a teacher of adolescents, strongly agreed with our course’s view on multiple perspectives, peer interaction was a different matter. The original focus of the interview was the overlapping roles of rationality and metacognition. However, his words on peer interaction and multiple perspectives were so interesting that those topics become the focus of this paper. This study is especially lucky in this regard, because the interview subject’s responses may be considered more spontaneous than if the interview had been structured to elicit them. For the rest of the interview, see the appendix at the end of this study.

The subject’s absolute agreement with the importance of multiple perspectives is best said in his own words. The emphasis is his:

If you wish to inculcate critical thinking and dismantle egocentricity in young adolescents in relatively short periods of time, forcing them to utilize multiple perspectives is invaluable. There are many ways to do this – scenarios from Kohlberg’s Stages of Moral Development, Counterfactuals, exercises from Edward De Bono, Socratic Method, Optical Illusions – since novelty is a key a key “ hook” with adolescents you are best off not overusing one particular method.

In my humble opinion, multiple perspectives should be the cornerstone of secondary teaching methodology and should definitely be used as part of the Arts ( Art, Music, PE, Drama) in intermediate elementary education because the tangible, hands-on, participatory, kinesthetic aspect is an accessible bridge to higher levels of thinking for younger children who may not have developed their verbal reasoning sufficiently.

However, the subject’s view of peer interaction (compared to interaction within a hierarchical environment) is more mixed. Indeed, when peer interaction is successfully used it is when the students are attempting to create a hierarchy For instance, when asked about spontaneous use of formal operations, the subject answered, “a high level of motivation [is] the factor in triggering it – either deep interest in figuring something out or competitiveness with a peer to prove them wrong.” Ultimately the subject places emphasis on mentoring rationality. While I had noted this in previous question sets, no class readings had taken the view that the subject seems to:

For the majority of students in this age group I would say “mentoring” is far and away more efficient – with the proviso that the “ mentoring” involves meaningful, focused, interaction and not an adult talking at a room of disconnected adolescents.

Emotional and social concerns and insecurities are such primal drivers here as to make peer-to-peer situations counterproductive unless they have been highly structured with objectives that are both understood by the students and for which they are motivated to accomplish. If that is the case then peer to peer is a useful learning technique and method of positive reinforcement.

A minority of students, usually the most able but not always, who are intrinsically driven by intellectual curiosity can, if grouped together, have some very productive experiences without (or because of the lack of) a formal structure as they make their way to a common goal.

Perspectives and Peers, a tdaxp series:
Perspectives and Peers 1. Introduction
Perspectives and Peers 2. Books Assigned in Class
Perspectives and Peers 3. Articles Assigned in Class
Perspectives and Peers 4. Other Articles
Perspectives and Peers 5. Interview with the Subject
Perspectives and Peers 6. Conclusion
Perspectives and Peers 7. Bibliography
Perspectives and Peers 8. Interview with Mark Safranski