Sunday, July 29, 2018

How we learn...

You can learn a lot by watching your own internal dialog. For instance, I can remember sitting in class and if the teacher said something, and if it interested me, I would have thoughts of my own.  From what the teacher said, (and if I was paying attention) a question might arise in my mind, or a thought linking me to something I knew from prior experience. My own receipt of information would be thus shifted at that point and I would miss whatever was said next.

So to take a whole class with each student having unique experiences and thoughts of their own and expect them to each learn the same things at the same time is completely unreasonable.

Lecturing to a class is an incredibly ineffective means through which to convey information and understanding. One of the things that makes me an effective teacher is that I am fully aware of the inefficiencies of the normal teaching style. My students say I'm patient. The simple truth is that I know how things work, that individualized learning is the only way to get the best teaching results, and that to be an effective teacher requires that I do much more than simply instruct. I must give time to the learning needs of each student. If I were to expect my students to actually get what I was instructing before their own hands were in place, I would wrongfully feel justified in feeling impatient when my students don't get the results that the ease of my own well practiced demonstrations suggest.

Learning is also complicated by simple psychology involving a thing called the serial position effect. We tend to remember best what comes first and last and forget the middle.  This is a thing that you can test yourself by going to the grocery store with a list of five things to remember.  You will likely remember the first and last things on the list and forget one or more things in the middle. And so you show someone how to do things and tell them how to do things and until they've practiced the full operation with all the steps, they'll be unlikely to be able to do the full thing on their own.

Throughout hundreds of years of academic instruction the assumption has been made that if something has come out of the teacher's mouth, it has gone into the student's mind, and little could be further from the truth. Shop teachers have long known how students learn and could teach other teachers a thing or two, but which academic teachers and educational policy makers are willing to admit that?

The photo shows learning at its best. The students are all doing different things. They are testing what I've told them and demonstrated for them through their own hands as applied to projects that arise from their own interest to create.

Make, fix, create and encourage others to learn likewise.

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