Thursday, 11 September 2014

changing the learning paradigm

Maryellen Weimer published a great post yesterday on her Teaching Professor Blog: "She didn't teach. We had to learn it ourselves." She discusses the comments that a colleague recently received on her end-of-term student evaluations and suggested that this is a result of student-centered learning or active learning in which students are given more responsibility for their learning. Comments such as this typically arise because students resist shouldering this responsibility. However, Weimer suggests that instructors could do a better job of unpacking the teaching and learning strategy used in the course so that students might better understand why they are shouldering the burden of their own learning - teachers cannot learn the material for students. If students understand the reasons for the implementation of a particular teaching and learning strategy they are more likely to accept responsibility for their own learning and more deeply engage in the learning environment. 

I have also received this sort of comment on my student course evaluations when I have used the teaching strategy Team-Based Learning. Some students felt that I had abdicated my teaching responsibilities when I didn't lecture every class and instead had students doing work (under my guidance) during class. I thought I had explained why I was using the teaching strategy and presented the data suggesting that deeper learning happens with collaborative active learning. What I have read over the past summer, and am reminded of again by Weimer's post is that as instructors we need to constantly be explicit about our teaching strategies and about the metacognitive development that is happening in our students as a result. The objective of every educator, I am sure, is to produce independent self-regulated learners that are no longer reliant on instructors to tell them what is the right and wrong way to do things. But this is something that requires work on the part of both learners and instructors in the sense that teachers must resist the easy way out and not give students the answers they seek instead guiding them to produce their own answers. And for their part students must be patient and understand that learning is hard difficult applied work and is not easy, quick, or simple.

Otherwise we graduate students who are unable to contextualise situations resulting in an inability to think on their feet when conditions change. As instructors we have an obligation to develop students intellectual ability.