Another dot in the blogosphere?

Posts Tagged ‘teaching

When someone teaches with a passion, it is obvious. The passion expresses itself in different ways, some more exuberant than others.

Video source

The video above is not a recording of a lecture or tutorial of a university professor of inorganic chemistry. She was demonstrating reactions on a talk show.

Her reactions to her own experiments were obvious: She was excited and joyous. It was as if the experiences were new, like a learner’s first time. This puts her in good stead to connect with her learners because she empathises with them.

Her teaching is also infectious. If you are enthusiastic and excited about what you are teaching, that is half the battle won. After all, some things are not just taught, they are also caught.

As a teacher educator, I find this tweet terrifying.

It is terrifying:

  • that this still needs to be said.
  • that the point is still relevant.
  • even in Singapore’s context.
  • especially in Singapore’s context.

The tweet is a reminder that what is olds to me is news to someone else.

My initial reaction to the suggestion to use “discs or thumb drives” to somehow deliver expert instruction was: How quaintly 20th century.

After reading the whole article, I found false premise of the assumption — doing this would ensure “all students are taught through the same standards”.

A standard delivery — still old-fashioned despite the 20th century references — does not ensure standard reception and use. Learners are different.

Teaching is neat while learning is messy. You cannot use a standard approach for a non-standard issue.

Teaching is neat. Learning is messy.

I sum up the already short tweet above with this: To teach is to learn twice.

To teach is the learn twice.

With enough reflective experience and well-grounded theory, it is easy to understand why teachers might become content experts. They are constantly performing retrieval practice and so they get better at learning the content.

Educators who have caught on to this by being well-read apply this in their classrooms and courses — they get learners to teach one another. This can happen in pairs or in small groups, take the form of short instructional videos, or any method that requires students to first internalise (consume) content and then externalise (express) it.

As learners do this, they will experience what all teachers do. They will struggle with explaining or communicating aspects of content. They then revisit or relook sources of information or clarify with their peers. This is a natural and authentic way of learning.

Students are not teachers. They do not have the experience or the education that teachers might have received about pedagogy. However, this should not stop them from doing what works, i.e., retrieval practice.

One issue that came up in this Twitter exchange was the difference in teachers being lesson planners and learning designers.

This is my perspective: The two are not separate or dichotomous. They are related and stem from overlapping behaviours. For example, both require deep pedagogical-content knowledge and empathy for learners.

However, there are nuanced differences between the two. I offer just three mindset factors that distinguish designers of learning from conventional instructors.

Teaching is neat. Learning is messy.

I have long put forward that teaching is neat while learning is messy. A good educator recognises that learners do not have the same content structure and experiences as she does.

Someone with structure and experience has already been through one or more journeys. They can look back and try to guide others through. However, that guiding is not the same as the learning journey.

A learning journey is messy because it is full of trial and error.

Meddling and tinkering
Whereas teaching is structured and logical with the benefit of hindsight, learning is exploring the unknown. The best way to move forward is to take cognitive risks by trying.

Some might call this process tinkering. We are programmed to do this from the moment we are born. Soon after, adults try to reduce such risks — and such a natural way of learning — in the name of efficiency or safety.

When these adults are teachers, they deliver in chunks. This is not wrong, but it is also not congruent with how newbies learn. If teachers are to be designers of learning, they need to learn how to be the meddler-in-the-middle.

Being a lead learner
One key strategy to be a meddler-in-the-middle to the learn constantly. This way you know what it feels like to be uncertain, to struggle, and to empathise with learners.

Some call this being a lead learner. This is an apt moniker because the designer and facilitator of learning is just slightly ahead and around the learners. She is there relating to the struggle and struggling along with them.

This does not mean that a lead learner is uncertain or poorly skilled. Quite the opposite. A lead learner models thinking skills and problem-solving. A lead learner thinks out loud. A lead learner teaches reflexively and reflectively.

The best teachers are those who show you where to look, but don't tell you what to see. — Alexandra K. Trenfor

The takeaway from my descriptions should not be that these are prescriptions. I have just described mindset change. This is something that is shaped from teacher preparation to professional development and from policy making to systemic change management.

I did not think that it was still necessary to urge teachers to be less sage on the stage and more guide on the side.

It is not that I disagree with the sentiment. I disagree with those who have an either-or mindset.

No, you need to be both and more. You need to be the meddler in the middle.

A meddler knows how to find and keep that balance.

A meddler knows that teaching is not the same as learning and that focusing on the latter means developing learner empathy.

A meddler is a learner first. A meddler must be comfortable with the discomfort of not knowing everything. That is how a meddler learns.

We know so much and yet so little for something so simple. That was my main response when I watched the video below.

Video source

What if a child asked you why their tongues stick out when they concentrate? How would you answer? What would you do?

It would be relatively easy to try to teach the child what you think you know. It would be very easy to direct them to the video, but that would not make the learning any more authentic. It would be more difficult to guide the child with question asking (problem-seeking) and answering (problem-solving).

We know so much and yet so little for something so complex.

Click to see all the nominees!

QR code

Get a mobile QR code app to figure out what this means!

My tweets


Usage policy

%d bloggers like this: