Understanding how students learn can help you plan your teaching to best effect. This chapter looks at some of the main models and theories of learning and discusses how you can design learning outcomes that link directly to effective learning activities.
Before you start designing lesson plans and workshops, consider what happens when students learn, by asking a few fundamental questions:
How do you perceive teaching?
Is teaching about standing at the front and talking while students make notes? Or is it about enabling them to learn for themselves?
When you teach, what are you trying to achieve?
Is it primarily about passing on your knowledge and expertise to the student? Are you there to enable them to understand concepts for themselves? To create meaning based upon their own concept of the subject matter and based upon their own previous knowledge or experiences?
What makes a good teacher?
A good speaker? An entertainer? A well-prepared and drilled teacher with lots of handouts? Is it someone who gives students an opportunity to ask questions, perhaps even make mistakes? Is it someone who drills students efficiently in the correct tools to use rather than have them evaluate and recommend which tools or processes seem to work best to them and explain why? Or is it a teacher who sets a variety of activities to encompass a range of learning styles?
What constitutes a good teaching environment?
A room of quiet, attentive students? A room of noisy students discussing ideas? Does your preference influence how you teach? The aim of this chapter is to outline contemporary thinking in pedagogy, to see how it illuminates many of the questions above and how you can use that information to inform your teaching.
The next section looks at contemporary theories of learning.