In the diagram used to illustrate the Conversational model the teacher is on the left, and the student to the right. What happens if you take a big pair of hypothetical scissors and cut across the middle? In this new model the student still gets to test out and refine their conceptions through research. They don’t, however, have someone to a) share their conceptions with or b) give feedback. Does this matter?
You could, for example, replace the teacher in the diagram with another student. This would give both students the opportunity to have this dialogue. It might not be quite as authoritative (I’m going to assume that teachers are generally more conceptually sophisticated and have more experience to call upon) but it could be argued that a lack of authority might enable a freer and more equitable discussion. What then, is the particular benefit of having a teacher giving the feedback?
If we go back to Meyer and Land’s notion of ‘Threshold Concepts’ then you could argue that the role of teacher’s feedback is to ask troublesome questions. Those questions would help the students make the paradigm shift to a new way of thinking (i.e. the earth is formed of tectonic plates, species evolve etc.) that is already part of the teacher’s worldview. As such, the purpose of this feedback is to help the student reveal the implicit assumptions that they are making and encourage them to engage with alternative perspectives. That sounds good in principle but how does this work in practice?
For my next post I think that I’m going to try to imagine some questions that a teacher would ask that a peer would not? Only then can I get a sense of whether I’ve been right to start snipping with my hypothetical scissors or whether, instead, I should be reaching for my hypothetical sellotape.