Monday, October 09, 2017

How do we best learn...

How do we best learn? The following is from research, Modeling best practices: Active Learning vs. Traditional Lecture Approach in Introductory College Biology–– Sokolove, Blunk, Flaim and Sinha, 1998
"University science faculty have frequently voiced concern that active learning is fine
in principle, but it takes too much class time to allow for student discussion and reflection and that the approach does not allow for enough time to "get through the material." In this study it is true that less time was available for "coverage" in the active learning section (Section A). Yet, the results revealed that students enrolled in the active learning section did as well or better than the students in the traditional lecture sections on a majority of the shared test items, and that the performance of students in the active learning section improved significantly across the semester. The results suggest that the principle of parsimony, "less is more," implicit in the National Science Education Standards (National Research Council, 1996) for K-12 students is also appropriate for large lecture introductory science courses at the post-secondary level." — Sokolove, Blunk, Flaim and Sinha, 1998
I am occasionally challenged by the question, "How do you prove what you say?" My question in return (aside from pointing to such studies) is, "How do you learn best?" And if challenged to name some educational experience that had maximum impact on the life of the learner, the response can almost without exception be interpreted as "Hands-on," not necessarily meaning that only the hands were involved in learning, but that the hands as a symbol of the whole man, or woman being totally engaged, thus gaining an exceptional learning experience at a deeper level and to greater lasting effect. So let's get real. Children and adults learn best by doing real things, not by sitting bored at desks and being told what's what.

If we think back on our own educations in elementary school, middle school, high school and college, during which we were generally bored and disinterested, we must not rest knowing that we've likely imposed that same degraded schooling on our kids. Tomorrow I will attempt to offer just a bit of insight into why hands-on learning may beat lecture even though less time is available to "get through the material." Getting through the material implies a rush job in which very little actual learning takes place, and yet it is what too many teachers across the US are given as their mission on earth.

Today I will continue an introduction to the qualities of real wood with my upper elementary students, and make wooden puppets with my first, second and third grade students.

Make, fix, and create, thus assuring others have an example for learning lifewise.


  1. The question of how you prove what you say could be turned around and asked of the person asking the question. How do they prove that lecture teaches more than hands-on learning?


  2. Anonymous6:39 AM

    So Doug, as far as I understand, following a hands-on-approach in learning and teaching means we will widen our own human capacity?

    (including: brainwise, brain-body-feeling, identifing ourselves and our parts in society and so forth...)

    As you say, all of us went through a special kind of system. Nonetheless we are here, some sucessful others not. Would a hands-on-approach have made us "better" in any way?

    Following that idea, I've got the pictures of your students "super-hero"-dolls in front of my inner eyes - and in my mind that we would become kind of a "super-humans", much more advanced than any of us is by now.

    So, we might need another measurement; a different type of scale to talk about our abilities and the level we've reached.
    Do we need other terms in education?
    Do methods of teaching follow the terms used to teach?

    I don't want to force you to answer that question. But I like the idea, that you share your experience and sources as long as you can - and as long as there are people who like to ask you because of that.


  3. Yes, I would say that following a hands-on approach to schooling, we widen our own human capacity. Engagement in life has always been the great teacher. Schooling tends to take over from a stand point of narrow-mindedness, sequestering children into a regimen directed by adult expectations. It tends to steamroll over children's actual developmental needs.

    I'm wondering if we need to continue to obsess over measurement of kids. Do we need another measurement, or do we trust children to grow to their full capacities in an environment that we know to be true to their developmental needs? There is a saying in Finland, that if you want an elephant to grow, you don't measure it, you feed it.

    I think that we are all capable of being super heroes, and some of my students aspire to having meaningful roles in family and community that the idea of making superheroes reinforces. They like making them over and over again, and are building collections of them. As far as becoming more advanced than any of us are now, I would just like some to catch up. There are some who have been damaged who should not have been. All the time schools obsess over test scores, the children are missing music and the arts, and missing development of their own creative capacities. Bob Dylan had described being "bent out of shape by society's pliers." Helped to fit society is not a bad thing, bent to fit another.