Welcome to the start of the 2011-2012 Academic Year.
With the start of the term and Teaching Tips day coinciding, it seems appropriate to write today about learners and learning. A past CTL director, Joyce Weinsheimer, regularly reminds teaching workshop participants that it’s always timely to name the attributes we want the students in our classes to exhibit, and to plan anew for ways we can “engage in the art of getting what you want” from learners and learning.
I. Attributes of Active Learners – A David Warlick 2¢ Worth post from October 2010 sets out attributes of “students” and “learners” to remind us that active learning requires active learners, and that we need to imagine ways of engaging students as learners:
|Relationship with Educators||Students are employees, required to obediently follow instructions.||Learners are citizens with a vested interest in
the learning society.
|Relationship with other Students||Students are competitors||Learners are collaborators|
|Motivation||Obligation: Students are culturally obliged to work for the teacher & for compensation (below)||Responsibility: Learners are motivated by an understood and realized “value in their work, especially when it is valuable to others.|
|Compensation||Institution defined grades and gateways to college (another institution) and a good job (another institution)||A sense of ongoing accomplishment that is not delivered but earned, and not symbolic but
tangible and valuable – an investment.
|Mode of Operation||Compliant, group-disciplined, objective-oriented, and trainable||Persevering, self-disciplined, group-and goal-oriented, resourceful, and learning in order to achieve rather than achieving learning|
|Equipped||…with packaged knowledge and tools for recording packaged knowledge – prescribed and paced learning||…with tools for exploring a networked variety of content, experimenting with that content, and discovering, concluding, and construction knowledge – invented learning|
|Assessment||Measuring what the student has learned.||Measuring what the learner can do with what has been learned.|
Given the attributes of learners you want to be at work in your classroom, “Quick Before It Dries: Setting the Pattern for Active Participation from Day One” by Steve Adams (University of Minnesota, Duluth) and Twelve Active Learning Strategies, embedded in the CTL Active Learning with PowerPoint tutorial are two great active learning and learners resources to consult in shaping interactive class session where we and our students see learning at work.
II. Attributes of Learning
Colleges are operating in a rapidly changing world in which we are preparing learners for a future of which we have little or no understanding. Therefore, the current view of educationalists is that we need learners who know how to learn and how to apply that learning in a variety of different contexts.
As an “educationalists” (teachers, librarians, administrators, mentors, advisors and support staff), what does it mean – in the context of our courses, disciplines, daily lives, and changing worlds – to learn? Certainly we “know it when we see it” in others’ work and when we experience it in our own activities. The start of the term, again, provides a reminder to take time to convey how we understand learning through what we say and do during a first class session.
Frank Coffield, in Just Suppose Teaching and Learning Became the First Priority sets out the following statement and two qualifications as his definition of learning:
Learning refers only to significant changes in capability, understanding, knowledge, practices, attitudes or values by individuals, groups, organisations or society.
Qualification 1: Learning excludes the acquisition of factual information when it does not contribute to such changes.
Qualification 2: Learning excludes immoral learning as when prisoners learn from other inmates in custody how to extend their repertoire of criminal activities.
By articulating a description of of learning to reflect the aims of your teaching – what attributes of learning might students begin to call on as learners?
III. Learning as a First Week Classroom Conversation.
This is the part only you can write – if learning requires the development of a complex collection of attributes that you want students in your classes to develop and exhibit, what might you and they do and say during the first week of class so that you together begin getting the learning you and they want?