articles, opinions, and research about teaching and learning
Learning in perspective
A learner's achievement in school is bounded, first and foremost, by the opportunities for learning that are presented, by the kinds of instruction that is provided and the modes of learning that are anticipated.
We can address the whole range of human thought in our classrooms, from memorisation to synthesis to creativity.
Each thinking mode plays a different role in the growth of mind.
Memorisation and repetition by rote help young children develop basic literacy and numeracy skills, such as knowledge of the letters of the alphabet and of simple multiplication. For older children and adults, memorisation of songs, poetry, and the works and sayings of the great thinkers can return satisfaction throughout life.
Drill-and-practice, like memorisation, involves repetition of specific skills, such as addition and subtraction, or spelling. To be meaningful to learners, the skills built through drill-and-practice should become the building blocks for more meaningful learning.
Synthesis involves the combining of information and skills to accomplish a goal. When young children write or even tell stories about their homes and families, they are synthesising the knowledge of their own experiences within a context of their early language skills.
Analysis means the examining of something (an object, an event in history or the news) to understand the parts that make it up or that have caused it. A young child could be asked to analyse the parts of the sugar cane plant, for example, while an older child might be given the opportunity to build her own understanding about the importance of sugar cane for animals and humans.
Creative thought can use any of the other modes of thinking, but it also involves a "leap," a bold suggestion or idea that hasn't been suggested before. Creativity may involve combining two objects to solve a problem, such as pouring water into a hole to float a "lost" playground ball to the surface.
All of these kinds of thinking and learning have parts to play in our classroom.
Module 5 of the Vietnam Multigrade Teaching Handbook offers interesting activities to prompt students to look at their local environments.
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Last revised April, 1999
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