Disequilibrium & Questioning in the Primary Classroom

Wow ….. what a powerful concept!  Disequilibrium was defined as the “conflict between new ideas and current conceptions.”  Otherwise said as, the ability to tolerate (and then embrace) the discomfort as you struggle through the learning process toward understanding.

But, I can completely relate to her frustration ….. teaching a math lesson and having students get upset, and say that they didn’t understand, is very intimidating.  As an inexperienced teacher, such as I am, I just want them to “understand” the concept and move on.  So, what is it going to take to get them to understand?  Path of least resistance? And move on from there.  But, as I reflect on her concept of “disequilibrium,” I ask myself does the author have a valid point?  Do these kids deserve more than just “dumbing” down the lesson into a + b = c so the they “get it”?  No!  That feeling of frustration can be debilitating; but it can also be a means to an end.  We need some of that frustration to energize our desire to learn.  How many students are just unwilling to suffer through those “growing pains” to learn the material?  Many!  And, we don’t teach them to not understand or only understand a little ….. we want them to understand fully.

I am currently substitute teaching mathematics with a group of 5th grade AIG (academically or intellectually gifted) students.  WOW!  This is a concept that would help a large percentage of these students tolerate the math “process” so much more.  These are students who, up until now, have not had a very difficult time understanding math or science or reading/language arts – but are now challenged with bigger ideas and concepts and are struggling with their inability to know and understand instantly.  The frustration level for some of these students is enormous; and the level of pressure that they place upon themselves is even greater.  If teachers could teacher their students this idea of DISEQUILIBRIUM (especially at an early age/grade) then they could more fully enjoy the process of learning and celebrate their learning more enthusiastically.

Katie, what do you think about this idea that confusion is something you “go through” when learning and it is not a permanent “state of being”?  Do you think this could be beneficial?  And, if you feel this could help students, do you think there is a grade level that the students are too old to learn and apply this concept?


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