One major impetus for using IF’s approach to student-centered discussions is to engage students in more active, and interactive, learning in the classroom. It’s a way to connect thinking and doing, or thinking and making, since it requires the students to focus more attentively to the performance of their collaborative thinking in the class. It requires them to focus more attentively on the craft of making of something new, on a collaborative construction of new ways of looking at things, rather than on the recitation of known information or established viewpoints.
I recently heard an interesting interview along these lines with a philosopher and motorcycle mechanic, Matthew Crawford, on the subject of his recent book, Shop Class as Soulcraft. Now, I say “along these lines” because Crawford is talking more concretely in terms of working with our hands and we’re talking about an intellectual creation in the classroom. I don’t want to lessen Crawford’s focus on that manual aspect. But I do think there are some important connections with our thinking about getting students more active in the classroom, about helping them to connect their academic learning to more real-world situations, and, above all, about the power of making, of engaging students in the construction of something new. I think that’s a key part of Crawford’s emphasis on handicraft, there’s a point where you just have to figure things out by doing them–without a precise set of instructions for getting there. You can find Crawford’s public radio interview with Diane Rehm here, and you can also find it along with some other links on his website here.