Teaching: philosophies, principles and practices

Teaching and learning: philosophies, principles and practices

  • Teaching: a purposeful intervention with the aim of promoting, facilitating and causing learning
  • Learning: a process by which change occurs through development or advancement of mental, physical and emotional abilities
  • Teaching and learning have remained largely fragmented activities until relatively recently
  • New interventions emphasising the interdisciplinarity of t & l have led to schools of thought which are amalgams of psychology, sociology, science, philosophy and para-educational areas, such as counselling, politics etc.
  • Perhaps the most important development is the development of new research approaches and techniques and the ways in which these are converging to uncover the complexities of t & l.

Examples of new work in t & l

  • Problem solving, knowledge organisation and performance-competency research from cognitive psychology
  • The advancement of early learning abilities which make innovative and demanding curricula more possible
  • The centrality of cultural and social norms to affect the content and transferability of learning at work and in communities
  • Theories as to the ‘wisdom’ aspects of knowledge and how these might contribute to successful application of learning
  • Comprehension of the learning enhancement and recognition of difference that technology might provide

Trends in teaching and learning

  • In the early part of this century, education focused on the acquisition of literacy skills: reading, writing and calculation
  • Education was also based on the ‘deficit’ model of memory and instruction
  • The notions of oracy, voice, critical thinking, persuasion and problem solving-ness were alien to most people’s experience
  • Arguably, there has been a wholesale change: the flexibility of jobs, the inflated requirements of work, the need for participation in democracies, has created a new meaning for education
  • Further, the sheer colossus which is modern knowledge and understanding, renders a deficit model defunct: what is needed now are tools for understanding, interrogation, insight, application and transfer.

Ideas about teaching and learning

  • First, it is quite a new idea that the way in which learning occurs and about who is capable of learning and what and when, can powerfully affect people’s lives
  • Over this last century, there have been many arguments about the location of the learning environment; the purpose of a learning environment to begin with; the role of the teacher in causing learning; the type of learning which is (or is not) valued
  • Recent learning research suggests that we can all enhance our learning in some way, if we recognise the fact that learning and teaching can happen in diverse and sometimes unexpected ways.

Principles in the evolving disciplines of teaching and learning

  • Watson (1913): behaviourism is merely another word for the ‘soul’ of more ancient times…..
  • Based on the empiricist tradition, behaviourists believed that learning was a connection making process of stimulus and response, and rewards stimulated the production of connections, to reinforce the ‘correct’ response. In this model, learning could be explained without reference to thinking at all
  • In the late 1950s, cognitive science emerged as a major force in explaining learning, and with it, the growth of complex models of learning, theorised by Bruner, Lave and Wenger among others.

The inexorable rise of teaching and learning for understanding

  • A major tenet of all new learning theories and models is the notion of understanding:
  • This can be understood in many ways: with the teacher as an ‘empowerer’; with the learner as a ‘conduit’; with the teacher and learning interaction as the ‘transformation and discovery team’…
  • But that is not to say that ‘new learning’ discounts facts: expertise and therefore true understanding is a synthesis of knowledge, usability, applicability, transfer and insight – above all, it is about ways of ‘knowing’.

Knowledge and knowing

  • Prior knowledge: the importance of knowing in a lived and believed sense
  • Intuitive knowledge: the importance of knowing in an observed and folk sense
  • Active knowledge: the importance of knowing in your own words and meanings rather than in terms of someone else’s
  • What is common to all these concepts however, is the idea of sense-making, and consequently, how one is changed as a result of having made sense of something.

An example of expert knowing

  • Experts notice features and meaningful patterns of information that are not noticed by novices
  • Experts have acquired a great deal of content knowledge that is organized in ways that reflect a deep understanding of their subject matter
  • Experts’ knowledge cannot be reduced to a set of isolated facts or propositions, but instead reflects contexts of applicability: that is, the knowledge is ‘conditionalised’ on a set of circumstances
  • Experts are able to flexibly retrieve important aspects of their knowledge with little attention to effort
  • Though experts know their disciplines thoroughly, this does not guarantee that they are able to teach others
  • Experts have varying levels of flexibility in their approach to new situations.

De Groot (1965)

  • Increasing experience and exposure to complexity, can lead to abstraction being replaced by perception
  • Problems thus become issues of perception rather than problems in their own right
  • As a result, knowing is a matter of subjective seeing and sense- making rather than inherent qualities of the object
  • For the expert, learning becomes a synthesis of the declarative (what) intuiting with the procedural (how) and illuminated by the reflective (why) but tempered by the conditional (when)
  • The growing awareness of this model of what we could be if we learned from expert knowledge and skill representation, has led to a more accommodating view of not just learning, but also, teaching, and the curriculum……….

Towards a typology of educational, teaching and learning purposes

  • Humanism: liberation, autonomy, emotional growth (Hirsch, Adler, Rogers)
  • Social Reconstructionism: society, world purposes, issues (Vygotsky, Freire, Giroux)
  • Technicism: skills, work, wealth creation (Dewey, Piaget, Holt)
  • Academicism: knowledge, inquiry, logic (Socrates, Jenkins, Keefe)

Teaching and learning: philosophies, principles and practices

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