What schools need to remember

by Angela Parrino, Ph.D.

Philosophy of Education and Teaching-Angela Parrino, Ph.D. November 28, 2015

Being an educated person should not be equated with the completion of a number of credits or state requirements. It is much more than the finite degree an institution awards at the completion of a set of courses. It is a way of being and interacting in society.

When we educate or become educated, a dialog is created that is not unilateral, but rather encourages a reciprocity of ideas so that both the educator and the one intended to be educated, learn. It is dynamic and interactive. In this volley of knowledge, there is the intention that there will not only be an increased interest in the content to be learned, but that this content will be learned more profoundly over repeated experiences and practice. It is also the intention that s/he who seeks to be educated will continue to do so.

How do learners best take ownership of new information? What is the role of the educator in the learning process? Education requires engagement both on the part of the learner as well as the educator. Neither learning nor educating happens in a vacuum. Connections must be made so that hungry brains discern similarities, differences, and patterns; piggybacking new information onto prior knowledge is essential. “Ah-ha” moments are the goal of the educator and a gift for the educated. When they happen seamlessly during one’s education, it is because of the educator’s skill. Such moments bring learners to higher ground. They excite. When they don’t happen, there is frustration, an unmet longing.

The educational stage must be set; there’s much to do. Here is where an educator’s awareness and experience are essential. Not teaching exclusively as one was taught requires discipline. Going beyond how an educator best learns is required. Identifying the varied learning styles of a particular group of learners and incorporating a variety of strategies that tap into those styles is a key responsibility of an educator. Although powerpoints have a place in an instructional repertoire, using them exclusively as a teaching strategy to impart knowledge does not address the needs of those learners who require a kinesthetic or hands-on approach to understand, for example. Educators allow students to shine when they assess what makes students “tick” early on in the learning process and figure it into the teaching of a body of knowledge to be learned. In this way, educators shine as well. We earn the respect of those we engage because we are respectful of the learning/teaching paradigm. Our lessons aim to advocate for learners-where they are and where we’d like them next to be. They are a combination of teacher-fronted and student-focused activities that develop critical learning skills and prepare learners for their own professions and lives. Regurgitation of facts is ultimately not the goal of the educator for his students nor the students for themselves. However, an application of a declarative knowledge pearl such as: young children are concrete learners may find itself proceduralized in a step by step role play by a child of brushing one’s teeth. As would be suggested by the tenets of David Ausubel’s obliterative subsumption, just reading the steps in a flowing narrative would not encourage meaningful forgetting (the program of brushing one’s teeth subsumed in long term memory – ultimately what we do want the young learner to accomplish), but rather systematically forgetting (bumper cars of information bouncing off each other without purpose or unified direction).

Education is a public good. Maybe not all think this so. Schools have a responsibility to bear this in mind lest one day there are no students to be educated. Schools are responsible to do their best to foster and promote the best teaching/learning environments from which education will blossom and spill over without end onto the society in which those educated will live, thrive, and affect the future for years to come. Great teaching makes the difference.

 

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