Hard and Soft Mastery Reflection by Aileen Shaffer
For week two, I read the article Epistemological Pluralism and the Revaluation of the Concrete by Sherry Turkle and Seymour Papert to compare hard vs. soft mastery. My summarized perspective on the two approaches is that hard mastery is more prescriptive and directive while soft mastery allows time for proximity and exploration of the materials. Both approaches are valid and one often resonates more effectively with an individual than another.
In my math classroom, I have many examples of how I have used a hard mastery approach with success. For example, students were asked to make a scale drawing of their dream bedroom. Students were given the flexibility to choose items to place in the room. They were provided graph paper, rulers, calculators, computers, etc. but I consider it hard mastery because they were provided what scale to use and the algorithm to use the scale. They loved the project due to the opportunity for creativity and it was a successful "hard mastery" project. I am giving thought to how this project might be modified to become a soft mastery project and would be open to any input.
The article pushed my thinking because I could not recall any "soft mastery" type projects within my classroom. The project which comes most readily to mind is my son's mastery of beat and music creation. He developed an interest in the topic by listening to music and began experimenting with different tools and resources on the computer. Through a more organic approach of experiencing the resources, he developed a mastery of the topic.
I am curious to learn if the research which was used for this article has been updated since it was done approximately 30 years ago. As a female engineer who graduated around the time this article was written, I experienced the validity of their findings in my own field. Specifically, their research shows a strong correlation between females preferring "soft" style and males preferring a "hard" style. In the present, I do not currently experience the strong gender based preferences as denoted in the article, leaving me with the question if society and culture has changed in this respect. Is gender the main driver of whether an individual prefers a soft vs. hard style to master a topic?
"If every child were to be given access to a computer, computers would be cheap enough for every child to be given access to a computer."
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