Friday, January 29, 2010

#3 - Break the classwork down into pieces so it won't be too complex for the students to understand.

When knowledge is broken down into little pieces, the information is taken out of context.  This makes the learning process more difficult for the students.  This is not only because the students struggle to comprehend the new information, but they also grapple to relate the material to a familiar context.  Without a sense of place the student has no anchor to relate what they are learning in class to the world outside.  In a very short period of time the student will begin to lose interest in the class work

Brain research has suggested that human beings learn by two basic methods, route learning and map learning.   Route learning is short-term memory and map learning is more permanent long-term learning.  A good example of route learning is when a tourist memorizes instructions to find a house in an unfamiliar neighborhood.  These instructions are only good for one particular task, and the instructions assume that the tourist won't get lost or forget them on the way.  

If that tourist stays in town for a couple days, she might find herself identifying some frequented locations.  This tourist has begun to build her contextual map of the city in which she is visiting.  This map is a part of her long-term memory.   If she decides to stay for a couple of weeks in the same city, exploring it more thoroughly, she might find that her personal map of the city is getting good enough so she does not need to relay on the routes she had memorized for getting around

Teacher guidance is important in the early stages of every student's development, but the teacher has to respect the student’s development of an independent process.  The teacher could allow space for individual interpretations of the information being studied.   

When we learn, we build our map to a level where we can function effectively independently of other sources.   Students develop competence when they are allowed to become independent of teacher guidance and when they are allowed to develop their own maps.  Having the teacher support this process of gaining independence is very important to students.  Sometimes students need someone to hold their hands and sometimes they don't.  A good teacher knows the difference.  

This is post 3 of 12 posts on How to turn a Teacher into a Prison Guard.

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