By Tanya Mohr
“Education is the acquisition of the art of the utilization of knowledge.“Alfred North Whitehead
As educators, we are privileged to work with others in the building and extend their cognitive development. We are uniquely positioned to guide and assist our students in making meaning of their experiences, in other words, to help them learn. It is well recognised that educators cannot make their students learn, but they can create the conditions and environment for them to learn. This has certain implications regarding what we think learning and teaching are all about. How we view learning will influence our approach to students. By way of example:
If we think learning is about transferring knowledge from the expert to the novice, we may approach teaching by providing lots of information to our students and then testing for recall and application using various assessment techniques.
If we think learning is a process of self-discovery, we may set the conditions for exploration and experimentation with new concepts and ideas.
If we think that learning happens via the mediation of experiences through action, we will set the scene to provide multiple experiences and opportunities for reflection and action.
Maybe we think learning is a social activity, and the role of the educator is to facilitate ever-deepening levels of complexity through collaborative interactions, scaffolding students’ understanding through interactions with others.
Alternatively, we may believe that learning and teaching are a combination of all of the above! We are then faced with complex teaching approaches and diverse learning styles. How do we unravel this complexity and do justice to our students and ourselves?
All individuals receive information and process experiences in different ways. How we do this determines our preference for learning. Understanding our learning preferences gives us an awareness of how we learn best and under which circumstances. It also equips us to deal with learning situations that are not optimal for our preference. The recognition of teaching approaches or learning environments that may be a barrier to our learning helps us to develop strategies to deal with these challenges. The Learnsmartly Educator report offers educators the benefit of understanding their individual learning preferences, sensitising them to the diverse range of learning preferences among their students. Having a personal experience of how certain teaching approaches affects one in a positive or negative manner gives educators the advantage of empathizing with their students and adapting their teaching styles to be more accommodating.
Advances in neuroscientific research in human cognition show us that learning is a physical-biological activity. The research further highlights the brain has four distinct cognitive functions associated with ways of knowing, namely thinking, intuition, feeling and sensing. The Learnsmartly Educator Report terms these functions, The Neuroquadrants. This describes the differences between the functions and how the preferred combination and use of particular functions shape our learning preferences. The report provides insight into the various cognitive preferences an educator will encounter among students, as well as suggestions for meeting these preferences and avoiding uncomfortable learning environments.
A further benefit of the Learnsmartly Educator Report is the opportunity to examine your own teaching style. Research suggests educators have a tendency to adopt a teaching style that is consistent with their own learning style or with an effective method they experienced during their own education. This could result in educators being uncomfortable with incorporating a variety of teaching approaches into their practice. A diverse group of learners requires various teaching approaches to cater to all learning preferences. By being aware of your teaching style, you can avoid slipping into an unconscious bias toward your own style to the detriment of your students. The report offers an 8-step strategy to ensure you adapt your teaching approach to include all the learning styles. This holistic approach ensures balanced, whole-brain teaching that embraces the complexity and diversity of any learning endeavour.
Notwithstanding the challenges of teaching and learning from a process perspective, educators face a rapidly changing world. We have moved into the ‘Age of Acceleration’, where the half-life (relevance) of skills is about five years.1 A college student who completes a four-year degree will only be able to utilize about 50% of their knowledge and skills, as the other 50% will become redundant! This places enormous pressure on educators to stay up to date-and keep their students motivated and on track. How do educators cope with the stress of ever-increasing pressures and demands from a rapidly evolving world?
The Learnsmartly Educator Report recognizes the pressures and stressful environments educators may find themselves in. To better equip educators in terms of how they ‘show up’ in the classroom, the report provides insight into your levels of Personal Mastery and Emotional Resilience. Personal Mastery is our ability to continuously learn and develop ourselves to manage our internal and external behaviours. Emotional Resilience is the ability to cope with and recover from stress-inducing situations, adversity and crises. Together these provide an awareness of your current state of being and how this can impact those you interact with daily. Educators have a responsibility to their students to empower them and create the conditions for optimal learning – having low Personal Mastery, and Emotional Resilience could have a direct, negative impact on your students. The onus is, therefore, on educators to adopt a mindset of personal growth in areas requiring development. The report offers excellent opportunities for greater self-awareness and strategies to develop yourself as an individual and as an educator!
- Paul Estes, “The Half-Life of Skills” https://hrdailyadvisor.blr.com/2020/03/25/the-half-life-of-skills/