Two problematic beliefs

  1. That teaching can occur without learning
  2. That learning academic content is more important than caring about academic content

12 Responses to “Two problematic beliefs”

  1. Could you expand on point 1 please?

    I believe it’s possible for someone to attempt to teach without learning taking place. It is a deeply undesirable state of affairs but it suggests for some values of “teaching” you don’t require learning, and your homily is going to get into a discussion of semantics rather than the underlying meaning.

    An alternate statement that avoids this might be something more like:
    “Teaching successfully is not possible without learning taking place”

  2. Lacking formal and informal assessment straegies, “teaching w/o learning” happens all the time. How often is the pace of a course dictated by the number or pages in a book (in my early days in the teaching profession, I actually had a collague explain it to me this way) or by where everyone else is in their curriculum?

    This is why I like models like Understanding By Design.
    http://www.ascd.org/research_a_topic/Understanding_by_Design.aspx
    In UBD and other similar paradigms, assessment is a core component of the entire learning process.

    A long tme ago, I wrote down this quote (source unknown) and keep it in front of me: “Assessment is not about grades. It’s about providing feedback so the learner and the teacher can improve.”

    I think this is why the various (and rapidly improving) student response systems are so powerful and increasingly popular with educators. They are not only engaging for the students but allow the teacher to collect and analyze assessment data “on the fly.”

  3. Dialog from a classic cartoon.

    Child 1: I taught my dog to whistle.
    Child 2: I don’t hear him whistling.
    Child 1: I said I taught him. I didn’t say he learned it.

  4. Scott,
    Completely agree, especially with the first one. We’re kidding ourselves if we think we’re teaching when our students aren’t learning.

  5. Exactly. I spent much of my earlier years teaching and some learning actually took place. Now that I am using Understanding by Design, I am spending considerable time using formative assessment to check and move students towards learning. It is an uncomfortable (read: different) situation for some students who are not used to re-learning. Some administration and parents are unsure of the practice as well. I still call for a different approach to teaching and assessment in order for learning to be achieved and welcome the day when professional colleagues are open to discussion of the obvious problems with the present system. I believe that UbD and move to more formative assessments will address those points. What do you think?

  6. I guess it sort of depends on what you mean by “teaching.” If we’re talking about effective teaching, then there had better be some learning taking place!

    This conversation has “formative assessment” written all over it…

  7. I think we’re watering down the noblest profession if we consider anything besides effective teaching to be teaching.

    Learning is the measuring stick for whether or not we are teaching.

  8. Grant Wiggins calls this the “expert blind spot.” We’re the so called expert, since we know what we’re talking about, when we teach the transfer of knowledge to the students automatically occurs. When we lecture just because we mention a topic, they must understand it. Right?
    We may be teaching but unless we use formative assessments we can’t be sure that what we teach is actually being learned or understood.

  9. Right on, Gerry. I liked Jeff’s “Understanding by Design” framework as well. Stiggins writes quite a bit about assessment for learning (in stark contrast to assessment for the purpose of merely reporting out). Based on the readership of this blog, I may be sharing what most already know… :)

  10. To Eloise: If someone is talking in front of a class and no one is learning anything, they’re not teaching. They’re just lecturing. Teaching is a verb that implies learners (students). You can say you teach history; but no one teaches anything to history. We teach STUDENTS history.

    If the students fail to learn, the teacher failed to teach…

    I understand #2 perfectly. I have been forced to learn A LOT that I don’t really give a rat’s rump about. I stop bothering to think about it soon after I’m certified (or whatever)…

  11. How you look at the first statement is dependent on your locus of control. If it is external, then you might say, “I taught it – if the students were motivated enough or smart enough they would have learned it. I have no control over the student.” If it is internal, then one might say, “How can I say I taught it if it wasn’t learned? What can I do to motivate the student and present the information to the student in a way they can learn it? I can motivate the student and ALL students can learn.” That is the difference between being successful with students who are already successful and being successful with all students. Learning can occur without teaching, but teaching can not occur without learning.

    The second statement focuses on student dispositions. A student with a positive disposition to the subject matter will be more motivated to learn it, make more of their own connections to it, and better understand how to apply it. If we focus first on improving student dispositions (and eliminating practices that undermine them), then the subject matter will be more easily learned/taught.

  12. “There is, in fact, no teaching without learning. One requires the other” — Paulo Freire in “Pedagogy of Freedom”.

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