techdirections - March 2017

Professional Development

Fred Hines 2017-03-04 00:53:46

You Teach— Why Do Students Not Learn? Try this experiment for yourself. Go ask a number of adults “What is the meaning of pi?”. The majority of them will have actually used the value when they were in school, but years later they won’t remember much about it. Is this just because they haven’t used the value since leaving school, or is it also because of the way they were taught? The question of why we teach material that 99% of the students will never use is a topic for another article. Present teaching methods, based on the presentation (lecture) approach, give the appearance of efficiency because the presenter covers a large amount of material. If the evaluation is then based on the return of key points of that information by the student, the method appears to work. But for the vast majority of students, this process is a complete waste of time. Ask them about any of those points nine months to a year later and you’ll find that they remember few if any. Try that 10 years later and they probably won’t even remember taking the course, or if they do remember, it will be because it was so painful. If the lecture method is bad, why do we continue to use it? There are many reasons. It is an absolute truth that “All teachers start out teaching as they were taught.” In other words, we use the same methods and techniques that were used on us when we were in school. Another very common reason is some teachers absolutely have to be the center of attention. They love to lecture and show off their knowledge. For many, the process inflates their personal ego. Some people call this the “I’ve got a secret” method of instruction and the student has to figure out what the secret is. In every ATech workshop I ask this question of the participants: “What would you think if I had given you a 20-page reading assignment, and a 2-page question and answer sheet, as your first assignment when you came in this morning? Would that excite you? Would you want to do that? Why do we do that to students?” The same idea applies to lectures. While you may think you are the world’s most entertaining lecturer, it is guaranteed that your students don’t. Would you enjoy sitting there, totally inactive, while someone puts point after point on a whiteboard or projects them with Power-Point? I call what normally happens to the student PowerPoint paralysis. Their eyes glaze over, their brain goes to sleep, and their legs and butt become numb. Most teachers accept this and as long as the student’s eyes don’t close, this would be deemed a successful learning experience for the student. How do you change your program? It will be a gradual process —one program section or module at a time—and it will take considerable work on your part. Student involvement is the key and “hands on” and “discovery” are the techniques to use. Let’s take the pi experiment as an example. One way to incorporate both “hands on” and “discovery” would be to give a student several round items, such as a piece of plywood cut from a 3/4" thick sheet with a hole saw, a soda can, and a ring from a fruit jar, plus a cloth measuring tape. Tell them that all of these items have some things in common. One is they are round, what’s another? Obviously, the cloth measuring tape is a hint. At this point, if a student came up with the answer that it is the ratio of circumference to diameter (pi), you would be amazed. But as your students become more attuned to the “discovery” process, they will get better. For the most part, they have never had to discover something for themselves in the educational process and should not be expected to automatically pick it up. If they didn’t know in all other classes, they asked and the teacher gave them the answer. How do you help them adjust to discovering things? Never answer a question except with a question. Ask them the question they should have asked themselves. In our example of pi, some of the students will be completely lost. Ask them “How many different dimensions can we measure on these objects?”. Let them work with that question for some time. They must be given the opportunity to think. What’s the next question? How about “Are any of the ratios the same?” It is much easier and quicker to tell them pi is the number which represents the ratio of a circle’s diameter to its circumference. But for understanding to take place, they must discover this individually. Then they own it and will probably never forget it. As a teacher, this is the most difficult way to teach because you must plan each learning experience in detail, but to ensure student understanding, it is the only way to teach. Remember “The key to a successful program is to put yourself in the place of the student.” If you wouldn’t like performing a particular activity, why do you think the student will? Does the education process have to be painful? A Vietnam veteran, Fred Hines spent 17 years as high school through university-level teacher, then did OBDII training system design for numerous automotive companies. Article reprinted from

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