This past week, I received an email from a fellow faculty member at the school where I work. The opening was great…her daughter, who was once in my class, wanted to say hello. 🙂 I love that. Doesn’t get any better than hearing from former students…even if it is just a hello. Then, my colleague asked me two questions…and they’re quite vast in their scope. I’d like to answer her questions below and then ask for your opinion on this. The way I see it, the more opinions she can have on these questions, the better. So, here are the questions:
What do you feel is the most problematic matter with student learning? Why?
It really is quite difficult to narrow it down to just one aspect of student learning…but I’ll try my best, knowing that mentioning one facet of learning surely involves numerous other points. Going with my usual cognitive psychology slant (bias), I believe the most problematic matter with student learning to be the lack of understanding by students and teachers of just what learning is, how/when to assess it, and how best to use what we know about human memory to tailor learning experiences. It would be interesting to question teachers about their knowledge of short-term and long-term memory; and if the limitations of memory are taken into consideration when planning lessons, designing the classroom, and assessing students. I don’t believe many earnestly do this.
For me, this information represents one of the largest holes in most teacher training programs. It is quite simple. If our job is to teach students, to provide instruction for learning, how can we not be aware of the processes that involve the remembering of that material? And then, how can we not utilize that information to best structure our physical classroom environment and the manner in which we instruct our students? It almost seems like malpractice to me. How did I not have a class on this information while earning my Master’s in secondary education? Why have I never received any professional learning on this essential topic? Following this train of thought, if I, the teacher, don’t have an understanding of human memory, what are the chances my students have encountered this information before? Very low, right? I cannot expect them to utilize more efficient and effective study habits in class and at home if I don’t even know what learning/studying should resemble. This seems quite problematic.
Do you think that online learning is an advantage or disadvantage? Why?
Well, it really depends on the student. It generally requires a mature student who has proper study habits (per my answer above…I have my doubts) and is willing to put in the work. I am not someone who believes no significant learning can occur without a significant relationship. I also don’t believe that students don’t care what I know until they know that I care (Yes, I do care for my students a great deal…calm down…I just know that relationship is necessary for learning). So, the lack of human interaction doesn’t really bother me too much…again, as long as the learner is mature enough to do the work on their own. In some aspects, online learning might actually allow students to avoid many needless distractions that may be present in the classroom and allow them the opportunity and time to really think about information presented online.
There are, obviously, many more questions to be answered about online learning…what learning management system are you using? How is your teacher getting the information to you? How are you being assessed? All of these questions need to be answered, surely, but I believe student maturity bests them in importance for success in the online learning environment.
So, those are my answers. What are your answers? Please leave a comment below answering one or both of these important questions. My colleague and I would love to know others’ perspectives.