John Mason begins by discussing a few observations about the role of teachers as initiators of actions which intervene in learners’ attention, participants are taken through a worked example of an exam question, and invited to contrast how their attention shifts as learners being led, with where the teacher’s attention could be.
The cornerstone is the conjecture that if teacher and learner are attending to different things, or if they are attending to the same thing but differently, then communication between them is likely to be at best partial, and that this explains why learning is so often less effective than it could be. References are given for following up on more detail about different ways people can attend to something, and how it is vital to be aware of the nature of your own attention so as to intervene in learners’ attention effectively.
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About Professor John Mason
John Mason spent 40 years at the Open University writing distance-learning courses in mathematics and in mathematics education, following a PhD in Combinatorial Geometry in 1970.
The author of numerous books and papers, his approach has always been experiential: closely observing himself, and connecting with teachers, educators and researchers through resonance between their experience and his own. To this end he assembled Researching Your Own Practice Using The Discipline of Noticing, recording practices and insights gained while leading the Centre for Mathematics Education, and based on his experience with J. G. Bennett in the 1970s. His 1982 book with Leone Burton & Kaye Stacey, Thinking Mathematically, which was extended in 2010, has proved to be a classic, stressing learning from lived experience. His principal interests have always been in nurturing and supporting problem solving in learners, and supporting people who similarly want to foster and sustain mathematical thinking in their learners. He became interested in mental imagery when working with Dick Tahta and colleagues in the Association of Teachers of Mathematics, and this developed into explorations into the role and structure of attention when teaching and learning.
Ages: Primary, Secondary