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Switch: Making it Relevant for Faculty

June 23, 2011

Swtich by Chip and Dan Heath

In our E.E. Ford Cohorts for 2011, Using Formative and Summative Assessment to Improve Learning and Instruction and Current Brain Research: What are the Implications for Teaching, we are going to read, Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard by Chip and Dan Heath, as our common read.  When the two cohorts meet for their half-day workshops on August 21 and 28, we are thinking through how to have faculty share their experiences with the book and apply what they have learned to their classroom teaching and understanding of students.  The c0-facilitators of each cohort are planning what the activities might look like.  Here is a glimpse into one of their ideas.

Activity: Using a guided imagery exercise cohort members will be asked to think about a challenging scenario, something where they were experiencing a “highly charged potentially dangerous” situation.  What was going through their mind, what were they thinking?  What were they feeling?  Paying attention to what is (was) happening with their body (blood flow, heart rate, temperature) at the time and during the guided imagery exercise, ask them to describe how their body responds.  Then another guided imagery exercise where cohort members will be asked to think about an exciting and wonderful scenario, something where they were experiencing a “highly positive, yet exciting, and maybe tense” situation.”  Again, what were they thinking?  What were they feeling?  Have them pay attention to how their body is reacting to the situation.

The idea we will explore through the exercise is that when we experience frightful (“flight and fight”) situations or extremely exhilarating experiences, our bodies react in somewhat similar ways.  Our heart rate increases, our surface body temperature increases (blood flow to the extremities increases), we sweat more, and we get flush.  The point being that our emotional, thinking, and bodily domains are all connected and interacting in very predictable and understandable ways.  (See the diagram below)
Interconnections of emotional, thinking, and bodily domainsOne of our goals will be to help faculty understand the connection of the three domains and relate them to the model described in Switch.  In the book, the Heath brothers write about the Rider and the Elephant, two aspects of our mind that influence our ability to act to situations in our lives, especially situations that require us to adapt or change in some way.  The Rider is the thinking or cognitive side, while the Elephant is the emotional or feeling side.  They are both powerful forces influencing how we respond to outside forces or situations that require us to act or decide.  One goal of the activity will be to help cohort members make connections between the two parts of our mind that control how our body responds (we and our students) to change in our environment.  Knowing more and being sensitive to these interconnected forces, can we (teachers) navigate the demands of teaching and learning in more sophisticated ways.

The video clip below is a 45 second explanation that Anna Bacon-Moore is sharing with the group.  Anna is a science teacher at The Westminster Schools and a neuropsychologist by training, with a strong clinical background.

If you have insights, questions, or comments to share we would love to hear what you are thinking about this activity.  In addition, we will report back as it gets further developed, implemented, and evaluated.

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