Monday, April 14, 2014

Driver or passenger?

Last week I grabbed Design for How People Learn, written by Julie Dirksen, off the CETL bookshelves.  Why I reached for this particular book was based, at least partly, on the way the font and color scheme jumped out at me (by design, no?) but also because I am always curious about how we learn.  I have a collection of casual observations from my own classrooms, both physical and virtual, but how well do those observations translate across situations?  The answer to that question isn't entirely clear just yet, but I just had to share something in the meantime.  Another question, in fact.  One that is posed by Ms. Dirksen in her book on p.181:
Let's say you have to drive to a destination that you've only been to once before.  Are you more likely to remember how to get there if, on your previous visit, you:
a. drove yourself, or
b. were a passenger in the car? 
This is posed to the reader within a section that focuses on helping the learner with transfer and application, and while I see how it fits into that particular discussion, I am also storing this question away for future discussions of active learning.  If the goal is for students to be able reach the destination, shouldn't we give them an opportunity to drive?  Being a passenger is often an enjoyable experience.  You have an opportunity to enjoy the view, free to check your phone, join in on conversation when you choose, etc.  But you also are passing along most of the responsibility of reaching the destination to the driver.  An active learning classroom, compared to a traditional classroom, offers students more opportunities to drive.  This is a helpful step.  However, there is another step that is necessary: the instructor has to be willing to step aside and allow learners to occupy the driver's seat.  The instructor is still fulfilling a useful role.  After all, who better to provide some guidance than someone who has been there before?

How can we structure a learning experience or a class period that provides students with an opportunity to drive?  Ms. Dirksen offers one possible strategy:
1. Work through some examples.
2. Have the students identify the concepts they saw in the examples.
3. Clarify the concepts and correct any misconceptions using the original examples as context.
4. Have the learners apply those concepts to further examples. 
That is, instead of telling the students all about the concepts up front, first provide them with an opportunity to recognize or discover the concepts, following up with discussion and additional application.

Dirksen, J. (2012). Design for How People Learn. Berkeley, CA: New Riders.

No comments:

Post a Comment