All entries for Monday 30 April 2018

April 30, 2018

The ladder of communication

Some colleagues believe STEM subjects are ‘difficult’, whereas we would characterise the difficulty as one of a gap in communication.

We propose looking at the communication gap to explore increasing accessibility of STEM.

We developed a diagram to represent the communication gap between learner and formal STEM language and ideas. The learner is thought of as at the bottom of a ladder wanting to climb up the ladder of subject knowledge and the STEM expert is at the top.

In the left-most diagram, the formal STEM speaker is unable to construct the scaffolding ladder of communication all the way down to the learner’s current understanding.

In the middle diagram, a teacher with good communication skills but less knowledge of formal STEM is unable to construct the ladder all the way up to the formal science.

The ideal ladder is shown right-most.


One form the ladder might take is based on the work of Bruner, known as enactive - iconic -symbolic.

If an idea is found inaccessible to a learner, it becomes more accessible when presented in approriate images.

If the images are not accessible, learners can come to understand a concept through making or enacting it, for example, by creating a graph using learners as data points.

This idea used successfully in Singapore as concrete-pictorial-abstract:

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