Monday, November 25, 2013

What should come first learning to teach or the pedagogy of teaching?

I remember the first class and the first time that I heard of Bloom's Taxonomy.  There were three things that popped into my mind:

  1. Does this have anything to do with flowers?  I grow roses so I believe you can see how I came up with that idea.
  2. Does taxonomy have anything to do with taxidermy or taxes? Really it's about classification?
  3. How is this 1956 paper going to help me in today's classroom?  After all, what I was looking for in teacher's college was the magic formula that was going to make me into a super teacher. How was reading about a bunch of theories going to help me or any other new teacher?
The problem was that at the time I was so impatient and nervous of becoming a teacher--a good teacher that I forgot to be a good learner.  Even now, a year after finishing my masters, I am revisiting lectures and papers I read and realizing how they're applicable in today's classroom.  The more I think about this, I'm really not that different from many of my students.  With their G.P.A.'s being held over their heads to whether or not they'll continue on to post secondary, learning sometimes takes a back seat to performance--and one doesn't necessarily take place with the other.  

 It's a shame when learning to takes a back seat to the final mark.  Although my personal academic focus is on mobile learning and smartphones, my real goal is to further engage learners to develop independent learning skills and see value not only with acquiring knowledge but working beyond the basic scope.  The problem that I face with teaching this way is time.  It's much like how I learn.  On the surface I obtain the information, but the challenge is how deep do I comprehend it?  With this in mind, it's difficult to meet the needs of learners under time constraints.  

As an educator, I too feel the learners' frantic pace as I try to squeeze all of the required curriculum in the set period of time.  While attending teacher's college, I tried to identify how Bloom's taxonomy could be applied, but without experience the learning cycle of a student, I didn't really grasp the importance of it.  After teaching for 16 years, I can identify when students are only superficially scratching the surface of topic leaving them able to spew back shared information, but lack the ability to apply, analyze, synthesize and evaluate the information/skill's purpose and role.  It's honestly taken me years to take these theories (and to have the time to revisit them) and evaluate them with purpose.  Montessori's approach is one of my favourites and to me is the basis of problem based learning (PBL).  While I re-examine PBL, I have to tip my hat to Seymour Papert for his work in constructivism theory.  As our society changes so does our need for educational approaches that are still deeply rooted in quickly pounding information into students' heads.  As I digress on this point, it leads me back to my original idea for this blog is that sometimes one of the best approaches or tools to increase the learner's synthesis of knowledge is to allow the time for the learning to take place.

Now that I have gotten off of my pedagogical soap box, I am left with the question "how do we allow more time for learning to take place?"  In essence I feel like the learner who is leaving the final examination room only to realize what the answer is to "that question."  Right now, I'm still stuck in that room, but I'll keep looking for answers.  In the mean time, I will seek opportunities to have these discussions with student teachers who are at my school on practicum.  

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