Explicate and Simple

Yesterday I went to a teacher training course, in other words a class for teachers to learn how to teach. One of the major differences between teachers at the primary level, and teachers at the secondary level (college and above) is that college teachers do not really know how to teach. They get teaching positions because they know a subject very well. Primary school teachers are teaching things to kids that most adults already know, so their specialized training is in how to teach something properly, given the huge range of learning styles and intellectual aptitudes one encounters amongst a random group of 7 year olds who just happen to live near one another. College teaching is totally different, in that the students of a university are generally speaking at the same intellectual level.

But this does not mean their learning styles are the same, nor does it mean their maturity and motivation is the same.

So there has been a trend in college level teaching to try to get professors to understand some of what elementary school teachers know: you can't just stand up in front of a classroom and talk and talk and talk and expect the students to learn what you want them to learn. I once heard that only 20% of people actively learn by hearing things orally: not surprisingly, 80% of professors are this sort of learner. This means they think they should be able to stand in front of a student, tell the student to do something directly, explicitly, and simply, and that the student will understand what they have been taught, and do it. But lots and lots of times, especially in a course like the one I teach, where students may come from disciplines that attract more tactile or visual learners, it may totally backfire. Not only might they not understand, they might actually do the exact opposite of what they have been told to do.

So teachers are supposed to present the same learning objective--say for instance get students to empathize with a character in a novel--in at least three different ways (ie: repeating themselves, but with variation) if they really want to reach all of their students.

But on the other hand, maybe the old system worked OK: only people who could understand what they were told did well academically and rose to the top of their class. Not because they were smarter, but because by some accident of fate, they were of the 20%.


Hildigunnur said…
Haw! I've never been in formal teacher training education but realize that people learn in at least 4 different ways. By listening. By reading. By saying things out loud (even better, teaching others). By writing things down. Using all of your senses (well, smelling is a bit hard, except in a small fringe of subjects) is pretty obviously the way to get the most people in your class to absorb the material being learned.
Jono said…
With doctors it's usually, "watch one, do one, teach one."

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