Welcome to ED 242W, Applied Children’s Learning and Development. I think you will enjoy what this class has to offer.
In schools, do we teach as if children are machine-like?
As you know, in this class we try to understand learning and development. But you might ask, “Don’t we already know about learning and development? We have been teaching children for years.” And yes, that is true. So what has changed?
Well from my perspective, and I say this because I have been involved in schooling and education much longer than you, I have witnessed the growth of knowledge that science has revealed to us regarding the brain and body. With this new knowledge, we are in a better position to re-think and re-interpret much of what we have been doing in schools. We are in a better position to interpret learning from the perspective of the child rather than the perspective of environments. Let me explain what I mean by that.
Because of our limited understanding of how the brain learns, psychologists and educational researchers have attempted to determine “best learning practice” by making changes to the learner’s environment and seeing what the outcome of those changes is. This, as you probably know is the way much of the quantitative research is done. Make a change in the learner’s environment, record the learner’s behaviors and determine if the learner’s performance has improved. However, why might this be problematic? Well, as a researcher I might find an improvement in performance, but if my initial assumptions of what constitutes educational performance are wrong, my findings will also be wrong and potentially lead me away from best practice. If I create a program of instruction based on the change, I might elicit other changes, derivative changes, that are counterproductive to how learning occurs.
If, on the other hand, I know a bit more about the way the brain works, I might be in a better position to design learning environments that are more conducive to learning. So, by learning what we can about the way the body and the brain work, we will be able to interpret, evaluate, and critique many of the teaching and learning theories currently in place.
To this end, we will develop our own understanding regarding body and brain development and then apply what we learn to our own understanding of educational teaching and learning theories.
How do we develop our own understanding?
We will do what we can to define many of the terms in use so that we are clear on what we are talking about.
We will learn a bit about the working of the human brain.
We will evaluate specific teaching and learning theories based on what we have been learning about brain development.
The Textbook will help broaden and deepen our understanding.
The book I have chosen for this class is Louder than Words: The New Science of How the Mind Makes Meaning, by Benjamin K. Bergen. I think you will find it readable and interesting. It is written with an eye to the novice without too much academic language. This is important when trying to understand something new. We will, in addition, read other challenging articles that will deepen our understanding.
This class is a project-based class — not a lecture-based class. I will review material, provide some background, pose questions, and then ask you to research and present your own findings to those questions.
There will be several projects throughout the term. In order to maintain some flexibility in our work, the number of projects we complete will then be assigned score values to account for 70% of the final grade.
Learning vs. Understanding: What’s the Difference?
Today, in your groups, tackle the question, “What is the difference between learning and understanding?”
For our first project, we will be creating a Mini Pecha Kucha of sorts. Normally a Pecha Kucha has 20 slides that are visible for 20 seconds. We will reduce our slides and time to 5 slides, up to 1 minute each. The slides will be advanced by a team member. Your presentation should be no shorter than 3 minutes. No longer than 5 minutes.
Next day our class will begin at 1:30. That will give your group 30 minutes of class time to make any last-minute adjustments or to practice.
Reading for next class.
Please finish reading chapter one of our textbook.
See you next class.