Category Archives: Teaching & Learning

David Perkins – Teaching for Understanding

A good read about the importance of understanding, and the distinction between it and the gathering of knowledge and skills. Though these are important to education, Perkins talks about the notion of a “performance perspective”, meaning that knowledge gained needs to be able to be used in an adaptable way, and be transferred to other contexts and used to solve problems in other disciplines. This demonstrates proper, useful understanding which isn’t provided by rote learning.

Perkins argues that schools and teachers need to be aware of the importance of understanding, and its role in creating “generative knowledge”. This is knowledge that has value across multiple areas of the curriculum, that can be built upon by students as they encounter more reasons to apply it.

Good points are raised about how to achieve this level of good understanding in learners. Regular and appropriate assessment, a long term, holistic approach to learning, and familiarising students with the different methodologies appropriate to different subject areas all get a mention.

Teaching for Understanding

Monica Colon-Aguirre “You Just Type in What You Are Looking For”

Interesting study by Monica Colon-Aguirre and Rachel A. Fleming-May on the study habits of 21 undergraduate university students in the US, who were enrolled on a number of different courses. They were comparing the students’ use of Wikipedia and other free web based resources with their use of the university library, both physical and in digital form. It was generally found that the students who were very comfortable with using the college library, and would prioritise it over online resources,  were in the minority. These were termed “avid” library users, though they admitted to often using Wikipedia etc. as a starting point to research.

There were two other categories; occasional library users and library avoiders, who suffered the most from “library anxiety” (I’m glad somebody’s given it a name.) Most of these students admitted to only using the library when their tutors expressly ordered them to and demanded evidence of it. And then they found the library an intimidating experience, difficult to navigate and confusing. While all students recognised that the libraries resources were likely to be more reliable and of better academic quality, the attraction of Wikipedia and other search engines was their accessibility and ease of use, and the fact that when you looked for something, typically you  just found it.

The authors make the point that when it comes to designing libraries and databases, maybe this ease of use should be taken into account, as it was the quality most valued by the students. The role of library instructors was taken into account as well, as many students found them a great help in easing them into the library experience. It’s suggested the library staff could liaise with the tutors in order to come up with more successful ways to prescribe research material in a less off-putting way.

This was an interesting read for me, as the last time I wrote a research paper a couple of years ago we were told in no uncertain terms to stay away from Wikipedia as a research tool. Or if we did use it as a starting point to at least have the decency to keep it quiet. This is a much more balanced approach, which tries to understand why the use of Wikipedia is so ubiquitous and challenges colleges to learn something from it.

Another point coming from this article is the lengths the authors go to describe the methodologies of the entire process, from the way in which the students were selected to take part, the conditions under which they were interviewed and how the data was gathered and analysed. it would seem to be a good example of how thorough you need to be to conduct good research.

Old Skule New Rules

An overview of developments in teaching and some current buzzwords. Old method to pursue an academic career was you’d get your own qualification and stand and talk at people for an hour so they’d absorb all the knowledge.

People in many careers are expected to be educators now, not just in standard classrooms but there may often be an educational aspect to working in say a gallery or museum.

Learning outcomes define what the outcome of the course should be and need to be appropriately tested for. TPACK is a map of things you need to know about. Content Knowledge everybody knows some of, but the other two things are Technology and Pedagogy, which need to be built on. Salmon & E-tivities – online learning activities where you get people together online and build a community first, and then get them to contribute to a shared system of learning.

Flipped classroom – from sage on the stage to guide on the side. Transfers agency from teacher to learner, teacher surrenders some control but result is better. Readings and videos are prescribed and class time is used for discussion. A blended model, face to face and tasks.

Personal Learning Environment PLE. How do you build that, tools, people, everything that you use to keep informed of your field.

Research based learning. Used to be telling of a story by an academic. Now students are involved in carrying out the actual research, more hands on.

Seek, Sense, Share. How you acquire and filter out your knowledge and make sense of it, then add value to it and give it back out to the community.

Teaching for understanding. Performances of understanding and ongoing assessment rather than a big test at the end. Generative topics that produce new questipns as the students go along.

Communities of enquiry, building learning communities. Foregrounds discussion – trigger, exploration, integration where you draw things together, and then resolution.

Threshold Concepts. Something that changes how you understand a subject once you’ve mastered it. The Eureka moment, where a little light went on.

Transformative learning is related to this, where the student gets to a level of understanding that changes fundamentally how they think about their subject.

PAH Pedagogy, Andragogy, Heutagogy, deals with regulating and directing your own learning, taking responsibility for your own learning.

Knowledge Management. Writing down how to do things, so someone else can do it. What do we know and how do we combine it with other knowledge to solve issues in the future. A business model.

Critical Pedagogy. How does learning work and how can it be improved. Educator as the lead learner.

All these topics are designed to contribute to more Meaningful Education. Prepares learners for a world which is VUCA – Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous.