Friday, 15 June 2007

Practice Makes Perfect

Yesterday I was discussing literacy with a couple of primary teachers and asked about their impressions of secondary school English classrooms. We got around to talking about the ubiquitous practice of reading a class novel aloud for a whole period. First of all the students are bored; secondly there is often very little explicit teaching including giving the reason for reading the novel; third, the learning intentions for that period aren't stated; fourth, students are expected to be passive receivers of information with the occasional response to a question about the text. Engaged the students aren't.

Today I came across a blog post by Maish R Nichani of which referred to a survey about adult learning. The first preference was learning by doing and I wonder how much of this is the situation in our classrooms. If students are to write how much writing do they actually do as compared with listening to their teacher talk about writing.

According to a survey from the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education (NIACE), UK workers have an overwhelming preference for less formal ways of learning to improve job performance.

For the survey (Practice Makes Perfect), a sample of 2,076 workers in the UK were asked which of ten ways of learning were helpful in learning to do the job better.

Learning by doing the job on a regular basis was the favourite method - overall, 82% found this quite or very helpful. This was followed by being shown how to do things by others (62%), and watching and listening to others (56%). Just 54% felt that taking a course paid for by the employer or the worker was helpful, followed closely by reflecting on your own performance (53%). Reading books and manuals (39%), using trial and error (38%) and using the internet (29%) were the least favourite methods.

I wonder what our students would rate as their preferred way to learn?

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