UNIVARSITY.ORG | Education’s Best-Hidden and Most Valuable Resource
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20 Sep Education’s Best-Hidden and Most Valuable Resource

The Challenge

There are some principles that drive learning. Every human being is driven to search for meaning. We all try to create patterns from our environment, and we all learn

to some extent through interaction with others. Because ours is a social brain, it’s important to build authentic relationships in the classroom and beyond. Complex learning is enhanced by challenge and inhibited by threat. We want to deeply engage learners with their purposes, values and interests. Thinking and feeling are connected because our patterning is emotional. That means that we need to help learners create a felt meaning, a sense of relationship with a subject, in addition to an intellectual understanding. Once educators and parents grasp that complexity, they begin to function differently in their lives and in their classrooms.

Furthermore, the wider the scope and range of possibilities in style and pace of both instruction and assessment, the greater the possibility that different kinds of students will be engaged by learning. This has obvious benefits both for the individuals who enhance their competence (who might not otherwise have done so), and for society, which requires as much diversity of ability and approach as possible in order to thrive in a time of unpredictable change.

Students themselves can be excellent sources for devising innovative approaches to learning. They may in fact be education’s best-hidden and most valuable resource. A classroom of students who are encouraged and wisely guided in thinking about what they want to learn, how they want to learn it, and how their learning should be assessed has a far greater capacity for creative imagination than any single teacher.

Thus engaging students in understanding their own interest and creating their own learning is a good beginning for their participation in a society facing rapid unpredictable change.

Memory and Learning

I view teaching as analogous to cooking; excellent gourmet chefs describe the preparation of their favourite dishes with “a little bit of this and a little bit if that.” This approach is recommended for teaching youth development – one that is not set and rigid, but a flexible mixture of learning and teaching formats. ” A little bit of this and a little bit of that” refers to employing a variety of teaching techniques to promote active learning (i.e., student involvement through discussions, reading, and writing) by engaging the student through a conglomerate of activities from debates to visuals to role play to panel discussions. The literature describes this philosophy as an active learning approach.

The research literature supports active teaching formats over passive ones. Significant features of active learning in the classroom occur when students are involved in more than listening, less emphasis is placed on giving information and more on developing students skills, students are involved in higher-order thinking (analytically, critically, and relationally), and students explore their own attitudes and values.

These active learning aspects require that students process information by doing and saying, not only through listening and reading – the trademarks of traditional teaching. Research in the area of memory and understanding indicate that persons on average retain long-term: 10% of what they read, 20% of what they hear, 30% of what they see, 50% of what they see and hear, 70% of what they say, and 90% of what they do and say (Magnesen, 1983). Doing and saying are recurrent themes of active learning which many educational researchers agree is best obtained by using a wide variety of teaching techniques to stimulate the senses with “a little bit of this and a little bit of that.”

Passive observation is not enough; it is interactivity that is so essential. “Tell me, and I forget. Show me, and I remember. Let me do, and I understand,” says the ancient Chinese proverb.

David Slade

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