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Cigdem Göle

Can We Teach Students How To Learn?

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How much of the things we teach do students learn?

I often get the feeling that however hard I try, the students get stuck at some

point and their learning processes come to a halt. Of course, this makes me feel

inadequate but I think the reason behind the problem is that the students expect

to be taught instead of learning by individual effort and instead of realising the teacher is a guide,

they see them as the ones whose job is to open up brains and stuff information in them.

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How much of the things we teach do students learn?

I often get the feeling that however hard I try, the students get stuck at some

point and their learning processes come to a halt. Of course, this makes me feel

inadequate but I think the reason behind the problem is that the students expect

to be taught instead of learning by individual effort and instead of realising the teacher is a guide,

they see them as the ones whose job is to open up brains and stuff information in them.

No matter how good the instruction is it is only as useful as the students interest and effort in learning. I think however we should take some of the blame for creating the 'student as sponge' model with our emphasis on results rather than process.

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Hi Andy,

I agree with your comment and I'm willing to take the blame

as being a part of the education system.

On the other hand, I think children see schools as places where

they can get information by doing nothing but to sit in class. At this point,

parents should also take the blame, since not many of them are aware of

the importance of helping a child acquire self-learning.

Most of the time, it depends on the ability of the primary school teachers

to do so. If the students are used to the method of teacher being the only

source of learning, it gets difficult to break the habit when they start university.

Originally, I was going to make this a longer reply but it's hard to concentrate when

you've got a cold with high fever on a summer day...

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Hi Andy,

I agree with your comment and I'm willing to take the blame

as being a part of the education system.

On the other hand, I think children see schools as places where

they can get information by doing nothing but to sit in class. At this point,

parents should also take the blame, since not many of them are aware of

the importance of helping a child acquire self-learning.

Most of the time, it depends on the ability of the primary school teachers

to do so. If the students are used to the method of teacher being the only

source of learning, it gets difficult to break the habit when they start university.

Originally, I was going to make this a longer reply but it's hard to concentrate when

you've got a cold with high fever on a summer day...

Buddhist teaching likens learning to 4 different types of cup with instruction being symbolised by pouring water.

The first type of cup is upside down - the student is supposed to be there to learn but pays no attention. No matter how much is poured nothing gets in - I have more than a few like this in my classes!

The second type is the right way up but has a hole in it. Information gets in but nothing is remembered, digested or internalised. You ask a class at the end of the day what they have learnt and they can't answer.

The third type is the right way up but covered in dirt. The dirt symbolises preconceived opinions and ideas - information is distorted to fit existing ways of thinking and nothing new is learned - (for exemplary examples of those with dirty cups go to the political conspiracies section of this forum :lol: ).

The final cup represents the ideal way to be a student. It is the right way up, strong and has no holes. It is clean and open to learning something new.

We would all like students like the fourth type of cup but perhaps it is unreasonable to expect it when they are forced to attend, prescribed a non negotiable curriculum and made to compete with each other for grades and certificates.

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Buddhist teaching likens learning to 4 different types of cup with instruction being symbolised by pouring water.

The first type of cup is upside down - the student is supposed to be there to learn but pays no attention. No matter how much is poured nothing gets in - I have more than a few like this in my classes!

Don't we all have at least one of them?

The second type is the right way up but has a hole in it. Information gets in but nothing is remembered, digested or internalised. You ask a class at the end of the day what they have learnt and they can't answer.

Sounds painfully familiar :lol:

The third type is the right way up but covered in dirt. The dirt symbolises preconceived opinions and ideas - information is distorted to fit existing ways of thinking and nothing new is learned - (for exemplary examples of those with dirty cups go to the political conspiracies section of this forum :lol: ).

I've read enough of that section...I don't think I can handle more examples!!

The final cup represents the ideal way to be a student. It is the right way up, strong and has no holes. It is clean and open to learning something new.

We would all like students like the fourth type of cup but perhaps it is unreasonable to expect it when they are forced to attend, prescribed a non negotiable curriculum and made to compete with each other for grades and certificates.

I agree.

I'd love to have my classes full of half of the fourth cup students, though.

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How much of the things we teach do students learn?

Some relevant quotations:

“The object of teaching a child is to enable him to get along without a teacher.” Elbert Hubbard

“Imagination is more important than knowledge.” Albert Einstein

“One does not actually learn anything new. What we call learning is really nothing but recollecting true knowledge that we already have within us.” Socrates

“We learn what we do.” John Dewey

“Knowledge is not “to know” but to schematise – to impose upon chaos as much regularity and form as suffices for our practical requirements.” Nietzsche

"Good teaching is more a giving of the right questions than a giving of the right answers."

J. Albers

"Who dares to teach must never cease to learn."

J.C. Dana

"The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires."

W. A. Ward

"It is not the answer that enlightens, but the question."

Ionesco

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“We learn what we do.” John Dewey

This one has been taken out of context and out of time and over-used by current "gurus" to support their extremist theories of child-centred learning. Dewey said it at a time when all learning was formal and completely teacher directed and wanted to see some change - SOME change. Unfortunately, many young teachers have been brainwashed into believing teaching shoud be ALL "do". This is totally ridiculous and should be fought on all sides!!

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“We learn what we do.” John Dewey

This one has been taken out of context and out of time and over-used by current "gurus" to support their extremist theories of child-centred learning. Dewey said it at a time when all learning was formal and completely teacher directed and wanted to see some change - SOME change. Unfortunately, many young teachers have been brainwashed into believing teaching shoud be ALL "do". This is totally ridiculous and should be fought on all sides!!

Dewey is arguing for active learning. I was not aware that there was too much active learning going on. However, it is true that the teacher has to be careful about the kind of action that they stimulate. For example, I have witnessed some role play activities in history where the student learns no history at all. Is that the kind of thing you had in mind Jean?

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The aim of this thread was not to favour student based learning but to

discuss the effective ways of creating a satisfactory learning environment.

However, I agree with Ms Walker. Young teachers have been told that the most

useful method in class is the student centered approach.

Teacher trainers dictate that the teachers who can make the students do all

the work in class are the best educators. As Mr Simkin pointed out, I, too, have

witnessed some good and bad examples of active learning. I oppose to the idea

that the teacher should leave everything to the student as well as the opposite.

The teacher knows his/her students' needs and learning styles well and uses the best

approach in the class according to them It's wrong to promote only one teaching style

and discredit all the other ways saying that they are old fashioned.

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I had an argument with a teacher trainer last week. He kept insisting that in listening comprehension exams the student shouldn't get any marks if he doen't answer the question in full sentences. I disagreed with this because what we aim here (in listening comprehension) is to evaluate whether the student understands what he hears. It is not about whether he can build full sentences with zero grammatical errors. I also said that there is a writing section in exams where we do it. In a skill based exam like a listening comprehension I give full marks to students if they get the answer right without looking whether they wrote a complete sentence.

What do other teachers here think?

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