A Journey Through Technology

Week 5: What’s the relationship between teaching and learning?

on June 16, 2017

When I think back on my experiences as a student in K-12 and compare them to my experiences as a teacher, the relationship between teaching and learning doesn’t quite match.  A lot of my education was based on rote memorization and regurgitation of facts, which to me meant I was learning. My teachers “taught” me by presenting me with information and I was supposed to “learn” it, which in most cases meant I memorized it. “Learning is not the direct result of having been taught.” (Martinez & Stager, 2013, Kindle Location 1595)

So what does it actually mean to teach? “Teachers fall back on their own experiences as learners when teaching.” (Martinez & Stager, 2013, Kindle Location 1603) This describes be quite well when it comes to how I approached teaching in my first few years. Terry Heick (2015) compiled a list of definitions for what it means to teach and as I read through it, I found myself agreeing with quite a few of them. Teaching is helping others understand, and to know what it really means to “understand”, and so many other things. (Heick, 2015)

I think that teachers are viewed as people who distribute information, hoping that it would be understood, but through my research and learning experiences in this program, I can see that teaching involves so much more than that. I think it’s easy to get caught up in our identity as teachers based on how we learned in school, so changing that identity presents a bit of a challenge. “[C]ollaborative teacher research…is one possibility for transcending or transforming traditional teacher identity formation.” (Diniz-Pereira, 2003, p.17)

But enough about teaching, what does it mean to learn? “Traditional education focuses on teaching, not learning. It incorrectly assumes that for every ounce of teaching there is an ounce of learning by those who are taught. However, most of what we learn before, during, and after attending schools is learned without its being taught to us.” (Knowledge@Wharton, 2008) I can “teach” my students to do chemistry, by showing them how it is done, but have they actually learned it? I see students really struggle learning chemistry when they try to rely on what has worked for them in the past: memorization and repetition. The main parts of chemistry really cannot be memorized. Yes, you can memorize definitions, but that won’t help you in understanding how to solve the problems. So, what students really need to “learn” is how to understand how the chemistry works. Traditional “teaching” doesn’t put as much of an emphasis on student understanding what they are doing, but more just memorizing what is happening.

This all boils down to how teaching and learning are related to one another. Does learning require teaching? No. However, if a teacher can change their teaching style to better fit how their students learn, the right kind of teaching can help students learn. In the constructivist learning theory puts “the learner as the center of attention.” (Martinez & Stager, 2013, Kindle Location 1651) “Constructionism is a theory of teaching. We believe that constructionism is the best way to implement constructivist learning.” (Martinez & Stager, 2013, Kindle Location 1651)

As we’ve seen the past few weeks, constructivism and constructionism really help students to get a deeper understanding of concepts, so why isn’t this done more in classrooms? “A key challenge is convincing many faculty…to change the way they teach.” (Brownell, & Tanner, 2012) This is the issue I see with myself and my colleagues. We get comfortable with what we know, and don’t want to change, or don’t have the time or the training to change what we do. Brownell and Tanner (2012) go on to describe the three main reasons that teachers don’t change: lack of training, time and incentives. By investing more into preparing teachers for better teaching, maybe we can make a better connection between teaching and learning.

References

Brownell, S., & Tanner, K. (2012). Barriers to Faculty Pedagogical Change: Lack of Training, Time, Incentives, and…Tensions with Professional Identity?. Cell Biology Education, 11(4), 339-346. http://dx.doi.org/10.1187/cbe.12-09-0163

Heick, T. (2015). What It Means To Teach –. TeachThought. Retrieved 16 June 2017, from http://www.teachthought.com/pedagogy/what-teaching-means/

Martinez, S. & Stager, G. (2013). Invent To Learn: Making, Tinkering, And Engineering In The Classroom. Torrance, CA: Constructing Modern Knowledge Press. Kindle Edition.

‘The Objective of Education Is Learning, Not Teaching’ – Knowledge@Wharton. (2008). Knowledge@Wharton. Retrieved 15 June 2017, from http://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article/the-objective-of-education-is-learning-not-teaching/

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4 responses to “Week 5: What’s the relationship between teaching and learning?

  1. waclawskid says:

    I like your point about teachers getting caught up in their roles as teachers and forgetting their true role. I also like your point about teaching a learning being related to one another. The key is defining these roles. Good work.

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  2. Mariah Smith says:

    The dilemma of changing how teachers (myself included) need to stop teaching in the traditional sense and really have learning as the focus is really difficult to overcome and fully understand what this can look like. Schools need to focus on providing opportunities for teachers to talk about this and have time to make this a reality of student-focused learning.

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  3. Jule says:

    I agree that we get too focused on our teaching that we become resistant to learning new methods and strategies. Our shift in education is starting to say that the classroom isn’t about us or how we teach, but rather our students and how they learn. If one keeps this in mind it may be easier to make their classroom and instructing the best for their students and give their students opportunities to learn or teach themselves. You brought up a lot of good points about this, yet it is still hard for me to picture exactly what this looks like in my classroom– a dilemma a lot of teachers face, perhaps?

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  4. matical4263 says:

    It seems that in the past we relied on exposure to the material and methods and hoped the students would be interested enough to remember what they saw and did. How is that changing?

    Like

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