A True North posted excellent information regarding PISA and good quality education. It is good to hear how many countries have already greatly improved their educational outcomes. Also, hearing it from Andreas Schleicher how me MUST focus on learning instead of teaching and foster diversity in all educational settings really made my day. 🙂
Creating a truly learner centered educational environment requires quite a few thoughts even before the learning-teaching interaction begins. You as teacher must make a choice of the frame of reference to be used. Sometimes this choice is an unintentional one – especially if you have not reflected upon your own learning philosophy.
To promote effective learning you should think about the learning environment (both emotional and physical) to ensure there are no obstacles for learning. Students prior knowledge plays a major part in their learning, and if you start teaching where the curriculum tells you to start, you may be passing by their actual horizon of understanding.
Some students arrive to the class ready to learn – others do not. Finding gentle ways to increase the readiness, and decreasing the fears, anxieties and misconceptions of students ensures a less bumpy ride towards the mutual goal: effective learning. Also, an aptitude for learning is highly individual among students in any given group. You as their teacher can either help students to become more interested in what they are learning – or simply communicate about passing the test as a measurement of education and learning itself not being important. Imagine how huge difference there is in between those two approaches! Yet we sometimes non-verbally communicate about passing/performing instead of learning.
Students’ own goals and their motivation to learn are also related to the learning aptitude. Certain (widely accepted) classroom practices actually cater for extrinsic motivation (i.e. performing tasks for a reward), which does not help your students to become lifelong learners. The last piece in this picture of effective learning is the quality of teaching – actually just one sixth of all the important ingredients of effective learning, but too often highlighted as the only measurement of education excellence.
This all, among other topics, are discussed in my new book: Choosing How to Teach & Teaching How to Choose: Using the 3Cs to Improve Learning. It is already available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Of course they are the same things I will be sharing in the AERO conference in Portland, OR, August 1-5, 2012, where Sir Ken Robinson is one of the keynote speakers. I am quite excited!! 🙂
The cognitive approach combined with the constructive and cooperative practices enable effective teaching and meaningful learning.
C1 –Cognitive approach makes teaching and learning easy and effective. Viewing learning as a student-centered and dynamic process where learners are active participants, it strives to understand the reasons behind behavioural patterns. The individual way we approach learning and whether we believe in our abilities are huge processes that are running all the time behind student performance. This is why I believe it is important to build strong learners.
C2 – Constructive practice emphasizes the students’ need to construct their own understanding. Delivered or transmitted knowledge does not have the same emotional and intellectual value. New learning depends on prior understanding and is interpreted in the context of current understanding, not first as isolated information that is later related to existing knowledge.
C3 – Cooperative learning engages not only the whole student in her/his learning, but also the whole class (or school, or even a district!) into the learning process. Teaching and learning become meaningful for both teacher and students, because there is no need for the power struggle in the classroom: why would a student rebel against the rules s/he has been creating? Wide range of different teaching and learning strategies can be utilized, and there is much more time to teach and learn!
Deep learning (or “syväoppiminen”, as I learned the term while studying for my M. Ed. in the University of Jyväskylä, Finland) helps brain to reconstruct the long-term memory, and stores the learned content quite permanently. Its counterpart, shallow learning, only stores learned items to our short-term memory and they get discarded after a while whey they are not needed anymore. Think of cramming for a remember-every-small-detail – type exam. The difference between these two types of learning is huge – one builds for life, other is for temporary use. And in educational settings we are always dealing with both types of learning.
While reading about the “summer learning loss”, I cannot but think that those forgotten things were never deep learned. And because re-re-redoing things is extremely frustrating for both teachers and students, I wish more teachers intentionally chose how they teach and aimed for deep learning. 3Cs are one way of focusing on deep learning. They are easy to use and applicable in all levels of education – they are equally important in early childhood education as they are for people pursuing their masters or doctorates. Very few of us (humans) enjoy experiencing someone to use unnecessary power or control over us.
How do you provide your students with meaningful learning experiences?