Learning How to Learn

I started taking this course on Coursera a ways back called “Learning How to Learn, ” and I got the recommended book for it out of the library:  A Mind for Numbers. I don’t really just use these things for my own learning. When I read these kinds of books and articles that are about how the brain works and how we learn, I try to use the information to make myself a better teacher. One thing that can kind of surprise me is how little many of our traditional teaching methods are based on how people really learn.There is a saying: Study smart, not hard. Shouldn’t we be teaching smart, not hard?

Some of the ideas I got out of the book so far are the difference between useful practice and overlearning. So overlearning can be useful in a couple of occasions such as when playing a musical instrument, but in general, according to the book there has not been shown to be a benefit to continuing to practice something in the first session after the concept is understood, but the concept should be revisited and practiced frequently. So how should this inform my teaching? It would seem that I should introduce the concept, go through the example or problem, then move on to something else. I should perhaps assign something from it for homework, so that students revisit it, but not an excessive amount, as quantity is not the thing here. Then definitely the concept should be frequently revisited and practiced in the following days.

There is also the idea that we learn better when our brains shift between different modes of thinking.This means short, frequent study sessions, rather than cramming.

This is not all new to me. I had already encountered some of these concepts in a book I read several years ago about introducing humor into our teaching. We remember the beginning and the end of things better, so breaks in the middle of class are actually important for learning, shifting gears, changing activities (if only my former principal was more on board with this type of teaching).

Sometimes, I think it’s too bad I’m not still teaching, and I wonder if I’ll have the opportunity to put these ideas into use. I’m not saying I am an excellent teacher, but I feel I have potential. I’m willing to improve my teaching and whenever I learn something new, I try to implement it.

A little bit ago, I thought about applying for substitute teaching just to keep my foot in the door, so to speak, but my husband looked at me and the baby and seemed to ask who would be watching her. I’m not saying he really disapproved, but I couldn’t really resolve that question to my own satisfaction.  I guess I just have to trust Allah in this matter, that He will guide me to the best path.

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