Teaching & Learning: Teaching for Understanding

This is the second post in a series of six for TL 6003: Theories of Teaching, Learning and Assessment. This post is concerned with how we learn.

Question #1: List some of the ways you came to understand your chosen topic/pastime and discuss the implications of these for your teaching and your students’ learning.
I considered what do I understand really well and thought about work-related
activities but I returned to something everyday: knowing how to drive. I sat as a seemingly passive passenger for 17 years in a car. When I was younger I wouldn’t have understood what the rules of the road were but as I grew older I knew that if the driver wanted to go to the right then the driver had to use the appropriate indicator to show this decision to other drivers. Later I learned the rules of the road and a parent took me out on practice sessions. At a certain level of competence I did driving lessons, I practiced some more, I had more driving lessons, I practiced some more and then I did my driving test.

Depending on the area for learning students may have:

  • Done some observation first and picked up information without realising it
  • Experiential learning – but they may not realise that they have it
  • Theory / background reading / preliminary knowledge
  • Demonstrations / learning by doing
  • Practice what was shown
  • More demonstrations / learning by doing on advanced areas. Hill starts were not going to be shown to me if I didn’t know how to work the gear stick and handbrake while looking at the road and using my mirrors.
  • Doing an exam or a way to show that you’ve understood

Indeed it was my phrasing “Done some observation first and picked up information without realising it” that one of the others in the group picked up on and talked about how everyone brings prior learning on an area to an area. This can include trusting themselves, having confidence in your own knowledge and yet being ok to unlearn certain stereotypes. This is an area I’ll return to as this week I learned something completely new.


Picking apart how you learn!

Question #2: What kinds of evidence do you have for saying you understand your chosen topic/pastime/ etc ? What does this tell you about assessing student learning?
The driving test is a combination of theory and practice. I passed my driving test on the first go. I made a mistake during the test but I stayed calm and corrected it. The mistake: I forgot to put the car into reverse and the car went downhill. The driving examiner put the mistake down to nerves and the fact that I dealt with it calmly and the next time I corrected it. I had to drive around a corner in reverse and uphill. In the 15 years since I passed my test I’ve never been in an accident and I’ve never damaged my car that much! The odd tip at the pillar trying to turn into the driveway shouldn’t count! I’ve taken what I learned about the causes of the accidents and incorporated that knowledge into my driving to minimise the potential for future accidents.

In relation to assessing student learning I can’t expect learners to get it straight away. For me learning to drive was a stop-start process with gaps of a year between some parts of the process and ultimately took about four years to do. The assessments should check small parts before the whole is assessed and assessments should take different forms to
account for all the parts of the process.


Learning for the ‘Real World’
This was a response to another’s post but it’s something that I’ve found is really coming in to modules over the last couple of years. I think it’s interesting that no matter what or how’re you’re taught in college the ‘real world’ presents a different experience. Sometimes the situations we’re in are too abstract or remote from how things are dealt with outside of academia. When we’re teaching are we teaching a concept or teaching how to use a concept outside of the classroom? I don’t know if all the students I deal with make the link between knowing how to search for information on XYZ and knowing that it’s the same technique as knowing how to search for cheap flights to New Zealand.


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