Archeology & Errors

TECHNIQUE 9: Excavate Error

imagesObjective collection of data includes the need to identify errors; and even to be aware of those errors in advance.  Once the misconceptions in a particular lesson have been identified, the technique, ‘Excavate Error‘ comes into play.  To me, this “technique” should already be an ingrained pedagogical strategy in every teachers’ classroom; an instructional component that is in place or it “goes without saying”  Frequently, in my professional development experience, I often find myself thinking, “What teacher isn’t doing this already?  Doesn’t every educator know that this is optimal and effective in the classroom without being told?”.   I do believe that most teacher’s understand that identifying specific, commonly made errors allows them, as educators to “…have a critical clue about how to remediate with those students and errors…” and that it leads to understanding, “…how to approach the reteach and presentation of similar material a little better next time around.” (p.73)¹.  Passing over the stunted nouns and poor grammar, I will refrain from the “No duh!” diatribe, as I do believe ‘Teach Like a Champion 2.0′¹ is very unique and effective in its professional development theory.

Excavate Error‘ diverges, as a technique into two categories:  Light Excavation and Deep Excavation. I believe all teachers would agree that ‘excavation’ of any sort is an integral part of data assessment and instruction in the modern classroom.  It bodes any educator well to review specific strategies; a few of which would be beneficial for myself to remember to fold into, as Lemov labels it, “the reteach”.

Light Excavation

  • Ask for an alternative response. As simple as, “Ok, that’s Sally’s response, Joe, what’s yours?”
  • Compare responses.  Randomly select two or three students (‘Cold Call‘) to respond.
  • Analyze wrong choices.  Selecting/or create an incorrect response, ask students to analyze why they think one would erroneously arrive at this conclusion.
  • Ask for a proposed response.  Ask students to generate an incorrect conclusion/response and describe the reasoning behind the misconception.

Light Excavation strategies require that the teacher withhold ‘The Tell’, which in Lemovese is the correct or desired response.  I do feel that a coulple of these are innovative and feel they might be effective in the classroom.

Deep Excavation

images.jpgThis strategy, and it is expressed in the text, has the potential to derail or redesign the nature of a planned lesson.  Time constraints, flow, natural breaks in the lesson plan may a possible outcome if this strategy is employed to “deeply”.  This is where the, “Who doesn’t know this already?!” rears is redundant, self-explanatory head.   “Unlike light excavation, which tends to involve a comparison of two answers when students don’t yet know which is right or a study of the right answer in comparison to a wrong answer, the core of deep excavation lies in looking at many errors systematically.”¹ (p.76).   Although this technique persists toward the promotion of a Culture of Error by “unlocking the usefulness of mistakes”, it also leads to time-management disasters.  What I do like about the theory of Deep Excavation is that it addresses, “…”information asymmetry” by showing students just how many answers there were in class.  If you were struggling, you knew weren’t alone.”¹


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