Saturday, June 5, 2010

Foundational Definitions

This summer our school is requiring staff to attend a week of training through The Architecture of Learning by Kevin Washburn. These are simply my personal thoughts and observations as I read the book. The text was required reading for the course.

Introduction: THE FOUNDATION
Defining Teacher and Designing Instruction

The fundamental concept driving this book is that learning is completely dependent on the quality of instruction. Washburn defines learning as "the brain's ways of constructing understanding and forming memories." As teachers, we are responsible to craft or design effective learning opportunities.

How can teachers accomplish this? By better understanding the ways students learn. Through an exploration of neurocognitive research, teachers (and presumably I) will obtain the tools necessary for students to achieve "long-term retention and flexible recall." This is only the introduction, so perhaps the book will answer some of my initial skepticism and questions later.

Initially I find it curious that teachers must acquiesce to students' thinking and abilities. Sure, I prefer hands on experimentation to lectures. Nevertheless, is not learning to understand through a lecture part of my education also? Why do we continue to place students rather than the content at the center of education? It seems convenient to quote Halpern and Hakel in a manner indicating our immediate effectiveness is not quantifiable. When the goal becomes life-long learners, skilled to meet unknown challenges, we may never know how effective a particular lesson was. Unfortunately, teachers are evaluated annually through the contract renewal process and students must pass standardized tests. I look forward to seeing how Washburn reconciles the apparently apposing goals of long-term retention and immediate gratification.