Part 3: What if everything we thought we knew about learning was wrong?
So far I have suggested that we have lost sight of the foundations of teaching and learning. That the practices of science, those of ‘theories’ and ‘testing’ have come to dominate educational thinking and that some of the aspects of the art of teaching have been lost. I have also suggested that we go back and explore the simplest of learning models to see if we can re establish secure foundations on which to build.
So let’s take that simplest of learning models for a moment and let me suggest how it will look
- I show you how to do something.
- You watch me, ask questions and imitate.
- I observe and evaluate what you do and provide feedback.
- There is recognition of competence and progress reflected in the instruction and tasks.
- You take note of my comments and try to improve, to become better, to master, to learn and perhaps ultimately understand.
- I take note of your reactions and try to improve my instruction/guidance
- We build a relationship and trust each other to do our best as either teacher or student although such roles are not always clearly defined. Often the teacher learns as much from the student as the student learns from the teacher.
This is in effect a model of the apprenticeship. Problems may arise with this model as we try to scale things up, as we go from 1:1 to 1: many. Bloom identified this as the “2 sigma problem” when he published his article “The Search for Methods of Group Instruction as effective as 1:1 Tutoring” in 1984 (1). There are claims being made for being able to personalise learning through “adaptive learning” software in the context of “gamification of learning” . A TEDx talk by Ben Betts exploring the issue of the 2-sigma problem and gamification can be found at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wqLiLH6Sjnw
Whatever we do there are issues of quality, consistency, standards and resources as well as cost in whatever model we choose.
We can imagine 10 or 20 students and one teacher, and we may even imagine 60 students and one teacher. It is easy to see how a different model, successful in its own right and particular situation, can be looked to solve other problems. The Victorians looked to mechanisation and standardisation, the process we refer to as industrialisation, and we are looking at the new technologies as we explore the latest revolution but as we scale things up one element of the simple model is diluted. Can you guess which one it is?
I believe as we scale up, as we increase the pupil teacher ratio, with our current approach we lose the intimacy element that is part of building the relationship between the teacher and the student. As yet, with current models, the teacher has not been able to provide the level of 1:1 observation and therefore focused and often immediate feedback that may be part of the foundation of the teaching and learning process.
This need to build relationships and trust in order to achieve effective teaching and learning systems may be the basic principle or foundation that we have lost as we have increasingly sought to put things right in education.
By looking to the use of principles and practices from other models, perhaps first those of the industrial revolution and latterly the information technology revolution, have we moved away from the foundations of teaching and learning. The question is “Can we get them back in some effective form?“
In the next part of this article I will look at the influences I believe both the industrial and information technology revolution have had, and continue to have, on education.
Part 4: What if everything we thought we knew about learning was wrong? http://wp.me/p2LphS-nZ
What are the influences of the industrial and technological revolutions on education?
Final Part: What if everything we thought we knew about learning was wrong? http://wp.me/p2LphS-pv
The four foundations of learning and what learning is not
Image credit: Okinawa Soba http://www.flickr.com/photos/24443965@N08/2585609947/sizes/o/