Monday, 30 April 2007

The Importance of Learning Slowly

Currently I'm working as a Teaching and Learning Coach and I know it takes me time to think things through if I am to get a deeper understanding, which is why I titled my blog 'Slow learning'. I'm always on the lookout for material about thinking and recently I came across a blog post by Gary Woodill titled The Importance of Learning Slowly , which is a review of Manfred Spitzer's book The Mind within the Net: models of learning, thinking, and acting. From Gary Woodill's review:

Manfred Spitzer’s The Mind within the Net is one of the best non-technical narratives on how minds work using the neural network model. Some of these explanations are startling, while others reinforce positions of strong advocates of individual freedom and the power of informal learning, such as Stephen Downes, George Siemens, and Jay Cross.

Like neural networks, the brain is based on vector algebra, rather than numerical computations. Vectors have strength and direction, and many vectors, representing multiple inputs, unite to form a result. The result in the brain is strengthening or weakening of a set of neural connections, a relatively slow process. While a single event can have an impact, it usually takes many events to have a relatively permanent change in the brain (aka “learning”) and to extract general features and generate rules from experience.

So there you go.

Thursday, 5 April 2007

Learners shall inherit the earth

In times of change, learners inherits the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.'

--the late writer Eric Hoffer

Wednesday, 4 April 2007

Asking the good question is key

Teachers in Victorian schools are coming to grips with formative and summative assessment which are now called:
  • assessment of learning (summative)
  • assessment for learning (formative)
  • assessment as learning (formative)
I recently read an ASCD brief blog by Marge Scherer on Dylan Wiliam co-author of Inside the Black Box , about a session he ran at a conference. It's all about formative assessment:

Some kinds of assessment raise achievement, and some merely measure it, Dylan Wiliam told the educators at his session, titled "Classroom Assessment: Minute by Minute and Day by Day."
The assessments that researchers have found most effective at raising achievement are those that teachers make minute by minute and day by day in the classroom and then use almost immediately to adjust their lessons. For example, teachers who walk the aisles to check on what the class needs to work on next are gathering more helpful data than they would if they used the same time to help two or three individuals with specific problems, he said.

Asking diagnostic questions is another way to find out what students do and don't know. A simple technique like an exit question (a question every student answers before leaving class) can help the teacher know how many students have grasped a basic concept or skill and whether to reteach the concept the next day.

Asking every student to choose one of several answers is another way to make sure students are engaged throughout the lesson. Teachers should not allow students to choose not to participate. Research shows that the more students think and talk in class, the more they learn. But questioning should not be scary, Wiliam reminded the group. If the student answers "I don't know," a good reply might be, "I know, but if you did know, what would you think?" The point is that no student should be able to "choose not to think."

To demonstrate some of his strategies with the audience, Wiliam had the group predict which of several answers were correct and then explain why they chose the answers they did. Such reflection and analysis are part of learning, he said.

Wiliam's final message: Classroom instruction matters most in boosting achievement, and improving questioning and feedback techniques will improve the effectiveness of teachers.