thinking about teaching and learning

As part of my plan for the year, I’ve gone back to the back blog topic list and to things written in earlier blog days, and there is one topic that needs much deeper exploration. This is the basic question, how do people learn.

One obvious reason that this question is at the front of my mind is the change we as educators have had to make to our approach to teaching in our current world. For me, this applies to my mathematics teaching; we are fast approaching the end of our semester here and I find myself starting the annual process of reflection on how things have gone, thinking through the changes I might make next year.

But it also applies to my aikido teaching. I’ve spent part of today preparing the coaching course I’m teaching tomorrow, and part of that process of preparation includes some theory around different aspects of how people learn.

This topic, how people learn, is one of the topics I touched on in earlier days of this blog, but one that I (still) haven’t had time to explore deeply. I have acquired some material over time, and the task that lies before me is to make the time to start working through them.

There are some structural questions, for lack of a better term, that underpin what might be described as a quest. Are there, for instance, different types of learners. I suspect that the answer to this question is lurking in the undergrowth of the extant literature, though I suspect that ultimately it will come down to human beings being learning machines, and the different aspects of this.

As I sit here, my fingers on the keys, I can track some of the ideas that are going through my mind. For instance, a phrase we have been using a lot recently is blended learning, and what my recent revelation is, is that we cannot understand what we mean by blended learning until we understand learning.

A standard aspect of discussions around blended learning is that they involve aspects of delivery, rather than aspects of learning. Synchronous delivery, with the interaction we can cultivate from our students, and asynchronous delivery, be that through recorded sessions or prepared notes, and a large et cetera as well. So perhaps we should talk about blended delivery, rather than blended learning. There is as aspect to explore here is what is required for learning.

And why are we using the word ‘blended’ as though it were something different. If we think about our original way of learning, going back to millenia before we started making marks in clay and on paper, we would be sitting around a fire, telling stories, trying to make sense of the world around us. So we could view a book as old school blended learning – or old school blended delivery – and since there’s always a next step, the next step is to understand the consequences of this particular line of thinking.

I see the vastness of this landscape, even with the mountains in the distance and fog in the valleys that hides much of what is there to explore. There is a trail. Backpack, walking stick, and let’s see where the trail leads.

~ by Jim Anderson on 9 January 2021.

2 Responses to “thinking about teaching and learning”

  1. I think… one area of learning I would like to know a lot more about is: why is some information “sticky”, jumping instantly into the mind and staying there — while other information, that I WANT to retain, is so slippery and hard to grasp? I note that I remember stories, and one reason that I enjoy SF so much is that the stories are sugar-coated information. But there are many kinds of information, and for example I can only learn to play a difficult passage of music by building up a muscle memory through repetition. So there is stuff that stays because it is arrestingly new and interesting, and stuff that stays because it has become habit…

    • You make an interesting point, and I agree that we don’t yet understanding ‘stickiness’ at all well enough. Why do some songs stay stuck in our heads? And yes, why can I remember some stories read years or decades ago, and others read more recently have made all that much less of an impact?

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