Models of learning: teaching for the student

Posted by Andy Gavin on Wed, 2005-12-07 10:02

In educational psychology it has long been known that people learn in a very individual way. To be an effective teacher or mentor, especially for new subjects, it is better to understand how the pupil learns--- to have a model representing how the pupil learns. Ski teachers in Canada do this; they have a concept of Student Centred Teaching. The model is quite simple and is works with most people that learn to ski. Pupils will fall, when learning into one of the categories:

Learns by watching. A good listener, prefers to be last in a group.
Practical and functional. Explainations have little meaning, learns by doing.
Needs to understand. Asks questions in class.
Receptive learner, learns by experimentation.

There is more to teaching technique than this, but models like this enable the teacher to know when to stop talking. Models like these have interesting implications for knowledge based jobs like software design. It also illustrates that is possible to learn things about the student that are practical and useful for adapting teaching technique.



What technique do you use to identify who falls into which category?

These categories are quite broad brush, but the Canadian Method teaches some structure to a lesson also. One of the techniques generally used in teaching; especially if it is a short session is whole-part-whole.

The instructor would chat to the pupil finding out how much skiing they'd done, what terrian they'd be confortable on and what they were most unhappy with about their skiing. The whole-part-whole would then be getting them to ski as they normally watch and the instructor would diagnose what would be best addressed to improve their skiing. This "part" of skiing is then worked on with a drill or two. Then it is integrated back into the skiing. During this process the way the pupil reacts to the tuition gives you his learning type; broadly speaking. If the student wants lots of technical detail for instance he is cognative. Watchers want to be near the front of the class and want clear demonstations--- they copy more. What this models give is the what proportion of your time in the class should be given to demonstration, guided milage, explaination, assessment, drills etc...

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