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  1. #1
    Just Another Philistine Hereford Eye's Avatar
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    Learning

    Consider the bromide: if the student fails to learn, the teacher failed to teach. TLWSHLWM works at an elementary school often exposing me to the state of the art in public education. We recently attended the Teacher of the Year awards for Cochise County, an event that caused me once again to become embroiled in an internal controversy.
    During the ceremony the Superintendent introduced me to a new concept and, then, one of the nominees was quite proud of her advocacy of cognitive coaching. So, I looked it up and, as best I can tell, it is a process for improving teacher skills. This particular teacher, in her write-up, credited cognitive coaching for her success. There was insufficient time for her to expound. If provided a question-and-answer period, I'd now have a dozen questions for her but I was not edumacated enough at the time to even know there should be questions.
    One of the nominees had been teaching 7-8 grade at the same rural school for 47 years. That's dedication in my book and deserving of respect and praise.
    But, I came away from the ceremony thinking that the best any teacher can do is be a book that the student accesses or not, all depending on the mood of the student. I don't accept that teachers can motivate students. The best they can do is provide an evironment where motivation can flourish.
    I know there are some teachers following GW's discussions, so I thought I'd throw it out to them: can teachers truly teach students?

  2. #2
    GemQuest Moderator Gary Wassner's Avatar
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    He, that's a great question. I taught for a while earlier in my life, first in the 1st grade for learning disabled, inner city kids, and later philosophy to mostly college Freshman, and I was a soccer coach for about 20 years. I also taught yoga for most of my life.

    So I guess it depends upon what subject and in what capacity you're talking about.

    Yes, teachers can teach -- many different things on many different levels. Functioning in that capacity provided me with some of the most fulfilling and gratifying moments of my life. It was the life lessons that I found most enduring in the end, not necessarily the particular subject matter.

  3. #3
    Just Another Philistine Hereford Eye's Avatar
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    If you taught and the students learned, was that a one-to-one relationship, every time you taught the student learned or was it more of a hit-or-miss relationship. If the latter, then what did you do wrong that the student failed to learn?

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    >:|Angry Beaver|:< Fung Koo's Avatar
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    It depends on what you consider "real" teaching to be, HE. Does it have to be directed, such that I, teacher, say "you learn this" and therefore you do? Or do you simply present a conundrum to a child and make the tools available and give them the opportunity to teach themselves?

    Personally, I think learning is an intrinsic, on-going function of the human organism -- "higher" leaning being merely an abstraction and specialization of "lower" learning (ie. survivalism) -- and the best that teachers can hope for is to shape that learning by presenting tools of learning to a child and making them seem useful and therefore desirable. It's the "desirable" point that gets sticky, though.

    Teachers can make kids learn, but this is not currently en vogue in the teaching world. What used to be called "learning through repetition" is now called "drill and kill" -- the notion being that directed learning (ie. proper "teaching") stifles natural inquisitiveness and self-teaching.

    We know for a fact that Skinnerian learning works. Conditioning, generally, is an enormously powerful tool, but it relies on a rewardunishment system, and punishment is way, way out of favour. In these models, the teacher creates a conundrum for the learner without any instruction, but with controlled possibilities of interaction with the artificial situation. The correct answer delivers a reward, the incorrect a punishment. This information is then expected to be applied to the outside world.

    As a question of cognitive- and neuro-science, this model quite literally forces certain neural pathways to be constructed and made as favourable, and avoids construction of non-preferred alternatives. (Apparently this stifles creativity )

    The other model is more passive, and is basically just complex role modeling. Going on the assumption that a child learns naturally by modeling the outside world, the passive-teacher role is more of a social game than proper "teaching" per se. There is no catch-all approach equivalent to the conditioning models. It only works on a per-child basis, and is therefore hugely complex. There are myriad factors that must be taken into account from all areas of the child's life, and frankly you have to be damned near omnipotent to actually be able to do this well -- and you also have to be an incredibly great manipulator. Some teachers are able to do this through their own individual intuitive gifts. Some try to learn how to do it. But most fail at this miserably -- it's just too hard to do for most people.

    However, of the two, it is by far (IMO) the most important part of teaching. But that being said, it can't be the only approach. Teaching, IMO, should incorporate both. Directed learning (proper "teaching") needs to be used to reinforce the lessons embedded in the Passive-teaching model, and Passive-teaching has to be used to mitigate the "kill" effects of the "drill and kill/learning through repetition" directed learning model.

    Kids aren't the pitchers that throw curve balls at you -- they're the ball, and they've got a shifting pocket of helium on the inside and a lick of spit on the outside. Their families -- their lives -- are the pitchers. Teachers aren't even the catcher -- they're more like the friction coefficient in the air surrounding them, subtly shaping their course.

    And, we're babysitters. Naturally, we have to do a lot of waiting around for kids to be ready to learn the next step, and each one of them is on their own stair case. (Wow, so many mixed metaphors! )

    But kids are sponges. They will learn no matter what. IMO "Learning disabilities" are situational incompatabilities, more often than not. The teachers role is primarily to ensure that the "required" dosage of the "correct" information is applied to the developing citizen. Which is very important, I think, but does tend to get bogged down in ridiculousness like "No Child Left Behind" and standardized testing.

    But to give you the summarized short answer: Yes, I think teachers can actually teach, but it's rarely 1:1, and its not entirely directed by the teacher. It's a transaction between teachers, student, and both of their lives.

  5. #5
    Just Another Philistine Hereford Eye's Avatar
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    Oh, good, we get to do Transactional Analysis!
    No, let's don't.
    A basic model of communication pictures a transmitter, a medium, and a receiver. The T sends a message across the medium to the R. All kinds of factors influence this process, factors in the T and the R and interference in the medium M. Communication cannot be validated without feedback although I know Drill Sergeants who have problems with this notion.
    Appears applicable to the teaching situation. A 1:1 relationship indicates validated communication. Everything short of 1:1 indicates obstacles in T, R or M. The worst obstacles occur in R. If R isn't interested in communication, it isn't going to happen. Witness any day of basic training in any army to verify the truth of this proposition.
    Elsewhere you wrote: "Body awareness ... naturally optimizes itself in living things through statistical trial and error repetitions in interacting with the outside world. Once basic motor functions are optimized, the human child typically gains rudimentary self awareness sometime between ages 2 and 3. They gain this awareness by interacting with the outside world, and that awareness continues to develop up until the brain's development plateaus at around 25 years of age.
    Self-awareness is learned from the community. Nature AND Nuture.
    This is why AI research is generally stunted. No known living thing exists in isolation from others of its kind."

    Seems to me that education ought to structured to take advanatage of those concepts which should take Skinner out of it and insert the Robert Coambs into it.

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    >:|Angry Beaver|:< Fung Koo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hereford Eye View Post
    A 1:1 relationship indicates validated communication. Everything short of 1:1 indicates obstacles in T, R or M.
    Or, as is most often the case in education, it indicates a lack of totalized awareness of the contents and form of T, R, and M.

    Teacher, know thy self -- in my experience, few teachers incorporate themselves into their teaching model. At teachers' college, we're taught to teach to an ideal. Often this ideal is systematized and locked into curriculum, but more often than not its based on adherence to some lofty, philosophical goal. But to me, a proper teaching philosophy should be rooted in the teacher's actual experience of what it's like to be a teacher. What do I enjoy about teaching? What causes problems for me? What do I get and what don't I? What aspect of teaching makes me feel the best or worst?

    To me, teaching philosophy starts with approaching teaching as an action of self-satisfaction. That's the only way I know of to get close to a totalized awareness of T, which I think is essential in order to optimize M. But, we're generally taught that this is the exact wrong way to go about because teaching is supposed to be about the student. But the student is by definition an unknown quantity. The student is a subject-in-process (to borrow from Kristeva) -- as are we all -- that is very early in the overall process. A the student, R, is not yet a normalized being, their interaction with M is inconsistent and variable, so T must be adaptable.

    In teaching jargon, this is the interplay between teacher-directed learning and student-directed learning.

    Seems to me that education ought to structured to take advanatage of those concepts which should take Skinner out of it and insert the Robert Coambs into it.
    Are you referring to the implications of his work in addiction studies? That the situation fosters addiction, and not the drug? Education as the opiate.

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