I am fascinated by what causes learning to occur for students - and why long lasting learning does not occur at other times... Here are ten factors that describe my current thinking on the topic: (All of these reasons are important - they are not listed in order of significance. )
1. At the first of the year when 32 students come walking in the door they are 32 individuals curious about what they will find in this class. The first few days of the semester are the most important time for establishing class culture. What expectations will the teacher have of the students, and what classroom patterns can students expect, will the teacher be consistent or indecisive? It is a crucial task to think in advance what the class culture will be and then have the courage to maintain the goals. It is like training a puppy.
4. Learning “facts” is not effective education– Learning whole concepts is. The water cycle is a concept. So is understanding how the human heart pumps and receives blood from throughout the body, and explaining how water movement in a vascular plant is different from fluid movement in a mammal. Concepts include facts – but they are related into whole ideas. Concepts are like snow balls - you can add on to a small one to make it bigger and bigger... Students can develop a rudimentary understanding of a concept one year and in following years learn more and expand conceptual understanding from elementary school to university.
6. How many times have I heard a student say: “ I don’t understand this at all!” – It is the task of the teacher to diagnose the students knowledge and identify a suitable entry level question on the topic that the student can answer – then follow with a sequence of questions leading the student to discover that in fact they had all the parts of the answer – they just needed some help putting the full idea together. (Socratic Questioning)
7. Note taking is an example of a skill that students must learn to do – If the teacher prepares in advance a partially completed note-taking paper and then pauses at times in the delivery to allow students to fill in the missing information – this is an example of scaffolding – The secret to scaffolding is to slowly remove it when students no longer need it… Remove it bit by bit as students skill level advances. Many tasks in school are too daunting for students to do with proficiency all at once – but when developed step by step with the aid of scaffolding the skill level can grow until no scaffolding is required… (Scaffolding)
8. Every phenomenon – atoms, the solar system, virus infection, oxygen transport in the body … we have learned as concepts. The idea that I have of atomic structure in my conceptual model of an atom. Evidence tells me that there exist small particles of different substances – but I can never see them in detail – all I can know is my conceptual model of what I think atoms are like. Scientific research is about refining our conceptual models as new evidence becomes available. My understanding of the atom when I was in high school has been greatly enhanced by new discoveries and research. It is essential to understand science as a continual refinement of ideas. We must adapt out conceptual model when further evidence tells up that our old model was not complete. ( Conceptual Models)
10. Use a variety of activities in teaching: group learning, labs, problem solving, guided note taking, reading, writing... make each kid accountable each day ... no one is permitted to sit idly and choose not to work. Frequent tests and quizzes are more helpful than great huge unit exams