Academic journal article Education

Learning for Maximum Impact: Four Critical but Overlooked Ideas

Academic journal article Education

Learning for Maximum Impact: Four Critical but Overlooked Ideas

Article excerpt

Teaching and learning are the stuff of schools. These are the most basic components of our educational system and despite virtually unlimited ideas regarding both teaching and learning, those of us who interact with students each and every day of the school year must make it a priority to be on the constant lookout for ways to improve our teaching and students' learning, as these two ideas are inseparably linked.

Teaching is an intentional activity. Implicit in this intention is the expectation of a particular outcome--learning. The purpose of teaching is to enable students to learn. That is, teachers create learning opportunities within learning environments that frame situations where students can engage themselves in activities and encounters that will lead to their learning and their understanding of content for any given discipline. Correspondingly, the outcome of teaching is learning by the student. That is, the student as a result of engaging in the learning opportunity and the environment of teaching acquires knowledge, skills, competencies, or understandings that propel the student forward in the learning process, ready to accept new levels of learning deeper within the discipline. And this interactive, complementary, dynamic process is what we call teaching and learning.

While it is easy to assume that this interaction is intuitive, that is not always the case in the reality of the classroom. It has long been a practice of teachers to create lessons and activities in which the teacher presumes that students will learn some if not all of the content or skill encapsulated in the lesson or activity. But, if students do not learn, it is attributed that there must be some defect in the child which impedes learning or more dramatically the student makes a conscious decision to not participate or to learn. Rarer is the case for the teacher to realize that a student's lack of learning is the responsibility of the teacher. However, it is this very idea which Dewey (1997) addressed directly when he described teaching and learning as "correlative or corresponding processes, as much so as selling and buying. One might well say he has sold when no one has bought, as to say that he has taught when no one has learned," (p. 29). To say that students have learned just because teachers have taught is irresponsible. If students do not learn, then the teacher must accept responsibility and restructure the learning activity and/or learning environment to ensure that learning is taking place. To this end, it is incumbent upon teachers to find ways to maximize the learning of students. It is one thing to create a situation for maximized learning to occur, but it is quite another to understand the dynamics that influence the learning that could take place.

To accomplish this goal to understand the dynamics that influence learning it is the purpose of this paper to present four critical ideas that individually and collectively describe situations and conditions for maximizing student learning and to share the dynamics of these ideas for teacher understanding. These four ideas have been harvested from groundbreaking books and a journal article that have largely become overlooked in the current educational environment. These disparate sources taken individually identified powerful ideas that shaped and reshaped thinking of educators at the time of their writing, but have largely fallen into the routine and common understanding of practitioners leading to disuse in favor of newer and newly reformulated ideas. However, taken collectively these ideas unite with new insight to demonstrate two foundational and highly relevant concepts for teaching and learning in the current environment. First, these ideas demonstrate the interactive nature between teaching and learning just as proposed by Dewey-one cannot exist without the other. Second, these ideas demonstrate that the interaction between teaching and learning, when presented graphically, identifies a common gap which is the location for maximum learning to take place. …

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