Thoughts on Learning: Part 3

Linear / Non-Linear / Staggered ….. Is there a right way to learn? And hence to teach? A disclaimer. These are more my understanding from various sources. Not a result of a structured study. I do not even quote specific sources. I frankly find that at times, very structured studies get inefficient and get far away from reality. Hence, this approach.

Today, I want to share thoughts with you on the various ways learning can happen and how we can look to plan it. Firstly, I will quote in summary 2-3 theories and then discuss them.

  1. The most esoteric is probably the relationship between games and learning. The theory goes this way. Even games are to be learnt. And kids love games. Why do they love games? What is it in games that cause the attraction. Can we use that in learning? So, comes the concept of “Flow”. In simple terms, what it says is that, the goal must be very clear to the player. Rules must be real simple and what they should do must be clear. Start with very simple targets and progressively increase complexity as they LEARN. Otherwise, we end up either getting too difficult against their learning level of the game or too easy. One way, they end up demotivated and other way, they get bored. So, thats great. Why dont we apply that to teaching stuff in classrooms? Teach students some simple things. Get them to do it. Once they do that well, increase the complexity and go on.. Whether all students can learn at the same pace is a different issue altogether. Even assuming we can deliver in a personalised way, is this a great concept applicable to learning? Should all teaching follow this concept of “Flow”?
  2. The simplest method goes this way. How can a student solve a problem without knowing the rules that govern it? So, if one has to solve a problem on how many times a ball will jump when dropped on a floor, then teach them the physics behind it and then let them apply the rules (of nature in this case) to the problem. So, theory first. Apply on the problem next. Of course, we take simple problems first and then go to more complex problems but there is a primacy to theory. In part, that’s because this approach is easy to run on mass scale.
  3. A method somewhere in between is more reliant on practical learning. This method believes that what is the point in attacking a problem without understanding the problem itself? How on earth did Newton learn physics? Did he learn the theory first? Of course not. He started from the problem and after studying it, playing with it, arrived at the rules that nature followed. Should we not go the same way? The obvious trouble with this method is that it appears to be too slow. Why should we re-invent the wheel? Its after all known what the rules are. Why go through the cumbersome process again. Let us directly deliver the end result to the students. (with some background on how it came)

Things are getting complex. For sure. And the article is going long…. Let me break here. I will deal with further thoughts on this in Part 4.

One caution though. Looking back, I note that Method 1 goes like this. Learn phase 1, practice phase 1, learn phase 2, practice phase 2…. and so on. Not that this contradicts with Method 2. Just that the chunk sizes are supposed to be much smaller and palatable in Method 1 as against that in method 2.

Let’s look at more thoughts on this in the next part…

Cheers. 🙂

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