#CCK11 What makes the difference? Teaching and Learning

Interesting to learn about the difference between teaching and learning post by Verónica Vázquez Zentella. Is learning like eating?  Here is my learning as digestive system metaphor

My philosophy of learning is like the digestive system of our human body.
I digest and assimilate the food (ideas, resources – books, articles, on the net, artifacts, knowledge and information) and absorb those nutrients (which become emergent knowledge) out of it into my body through the blood stream (through plan-do-check-act learning reflection cycle in my connections – nodes and networks).
I will ensure that I take a variety of foods (learning network at neural, conceptual, external – communities, social levels and information sources) to maintain a healthy body and mind.
I will egest any by-products of learning (those obsolete knowledge, SPAMS, distractions, overloading of knowledge and time wasters) to keep my body clear of toxins and wastes.
The ICT and Web 2.0, PLE etc. could act as catalysts (or enzymes) for the digestion.
I would also take extra physical, spiritual and mental exercises (external support, experts’ advice, courses, community or network participation and involvement, action research and learning projects) to ensure a proper balance of my health.

Photos: credit from wikipedia on digestive system

Is teaching different from learning?

Stephen explains that: The word ‘learning’ is a success-term. It refers to the result. Although we say “I am learning to drive” we really mean “I am practicing how to drive.” If we keep practicing but get no better, it becomes foolish to say “I am ‘learning’ to drive.”  That was followed by an interesting debate on what is and what is not learning by Stephen, Ken and Verónica.  I like to dig deep into it, but don’t seem to have got the right words for what those definitions really mean in “theory”.  May be I could join in the discussion once I have shared a few stories of learning.

To me, there are semantics involved – how the meaning of learning is interpreted especially in online learning?  And how it differs from one person to another.

Learning to drive is practising how to drive.  If we keep practising but get no better, could we still call this: “I am learning to drive”?  That is quite difficult to conclude.  Why?  If I am learning how to learn, and that I keep practising but get no better, am I still learning how to learn? May be there are some hindrance to the learning itself.  May be I need some help, or I want some intervention by the educators or knowledgeable others to help me to learn.  So if we say learning is about practising, then practising in doing something may involve some learning, with or without the help of others, but not necessarily could lead to “learning” as defined as a success-term.  So, what is success then?  This would again be interpreted somewhat differently by different persons at different stages of development in learning.

May I share my story of learning?

I played harmonica when I was young.  How did I learn playing harmonica? When I was around 14, I decided to play with musical instrument, and after hearing many others playing harmonica beautifully well, I thought, wouldn’t it be great to play out some musical pieces.  My passion drove me to do four things:

(a) Buy a harmonica and a book on how to play harmonica

(b) Learn how to play by reading the book and joining a harmonica band

(c) Learn with others in how to play well with harmonica in a harmonica band

(d) Refine my learning through practice, reflection, comments and feedback, and corrective action cycle

So, once I had bought a harmonic and started reading the book in how to play harmonica, I started to play harmonica.  Within two weeks, I could play some basic musical pieces, and to my surprise, I could play many pieces without referring to the musical books.  I didn’t know how to read the “dots or notes” at the time, and so I was still a “novice in music”.  However, during the first week when I joined the harmonica band, I was able to follow all instructions by the expert instructor (who was the expert master at the time in Hong Kong – Mr Leung Yat Chiu, who was so generous in devoting his time in teaching us how to play harmonica without being paid).  So, on one hand I have “learnt” how to play harmonica even before I joined the harmonica band (class), but then on the other hand, I was still not yet perfected in learning how to play.  In the following weeks and months I kept on practised playing harmonica (which was really annoying sometimes to our neighbours, especially when there were no acoustic insulation in our house :)).  I also learnt a lot in refining my skills by learning through the harmonica band, and practising there. I did participate in the band for two to three years and our harmonica band won a consecutive Runner Up in an Inter-school Competition where I was proud of.

Learning to play a musical instrument is an act of learning.  Whether learning has occurred would depend on how I have practised it (my harmonica playing) and how I have refined the skills in playing it better each time.  Could I learn how to play well just with the books?  May be if I were a genius!  I found that I could play any pieces of music by just listening to the notes, even without knowing how to read the standard music book, but then I would need to rely on my musical memory of the notes in order to play out the piece accurately.

In the process of learning how to play harmonica, I started off with self-learning, and then I  was both taught by the instructor and my other harmonica team members through their sharing, comments, feedback and practice with me.  I can’t claim that I know how to teach others how to play harmonica, as I learnt that in the first place through self-teaching and learning, followed by instructions by instructors.  However, I must admit that the first 2 weeks of self-paced teaching and learning had made a big difference in molding my thoughts about self-directed learning, in that learning how to learn is as important as learning how to play a certain musical instrument, as there are so many similarities between the two: they require thinking, learning through practice and action, that are most often driven by intrinsic motivation, though extrinsic motivation could help, and most importantly, practice could make “things” perfect, through internal reflection, evaluation, and critique, and then action again.

The above account is my personal anecdote about teaching and learning.  Does it sound familiar to you, when you were learning at a young age?

Here are some images of model on experiential learning.  Which of them could explain what I have learnt through the harmonica learning experience?

If I were to “teach” someone how to play harmonica, what would I suggest? Would I be recommending to other how to learn with what I have experienced before?  May be through the above story.  But whether this works for others is totally unknown to me and us.  Why?  Each of us learns differently.  If you want a successful learning, you would need to think about what you need to do to achieve your passion or goals.  You might seek advice from others if you wish to, but eventually you are the one to decide what is in your best interests.

So, what are the assumptions here in learning?  Have we assumed that what works for me works for you?  No?  If we were to teach others how to play a musical instrument, have we assumed that others really want to learn how to play first?  Should we teach by giving instruction first? Would this depend on what the “learner” actually want?  However, “I don’t know what I don’t know” if I haven’t experienced it before is a typical “schema” or mindset written in the minds of learners (or just a white piece of paper without any writing there).  So, if we bear this in mind, then learning about something entirely new could be coined by the novice learner as: “Tell me what I have to learn, then tell me what I could learn, then tell me what I should have learnt” so I know at least what I am expected to know in this learning.  Otherwise, may be just like what I have experienced, let me (as a learner) figure it out, and I will learn it in a way that suits me.

But is that learning effective?  That had been shared in another post on Teaching and Learning. From which perspective are we referring to this teaching and learning?  Teacher or learner.

I think “we” need to consider learning from a “micro-learning” and “macro-learning” perspective too.  I will elaborate the differences between micro and macro learning theories in the coming posts.

So What is learning and teaching to you? What is the difference?  Your story…..

14 thoughts on “#CCK11 What makes the difference? Teaching and Learning

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention #CCK11 What makes the difference? Teaching and Learning | Suifaijohnmak's Weblog -- Topsy.com

  2. Pingback: Eating, learning and connecting. #cck11 « connectiv

  3. “What is learning and teaching?”

    Beyond Dewey’s (1909) training and thought and logical considerations, creating opportunities for learners to explain, interpret, apply, have perspective, empathy, and self-knowledge (Wiggins and McTighe, 2005) would seem to cover what learning is for me. Classifying all performance verbs in terms of these “six facets of understanding” (Wiggins and McTighe, 2005), and then affording learners to develop these six facets over a period of time provide the experience for individuals to learn.

    Also, learners (through the guidance of others, including teachers) need to recognize and adapt both intended and unintended learning outcomes in a way that serves some future benefit.

    Teachers and learners need to co-create the “educative experience” (Dewey, 1938) by reflecting (critically and with devotion) on the types of connections that exist throughout PLNs as well as the attributes that make up the boundary nodes they entail. This connective perspective is precisely what is needed in order for learning to occur.

  4. Pingback: #CCK11: What is learning and teaching? » Collaborative Understandings

  5. Learning is a noun, signifying (among other objects) the knowledge and skills acquired through study and practice.

  6. Hi Ken,
    Yes, I could appreciate that “definition”. The word learning means learn and practice when coined in Chinese. So is the word teaching, which means teach and learn when translated into Chinese, or carrying out teaching when used as a verb. I think there are some differences in the meaning of the word teaching and learning across different cultures (i.e. East and West) too.

    Hi Ben,
    Thanks for your sharing and great explanations on learning and teaching. It helps me to reflect on the significance of the co-creation of educative experience.

  7. olá, é necessário reler o seu texto como também a resposta do Benjamim, e eu reflito se será possível unicamente aprender algo com uma pessoa como intermediária?
    Lógico que todos nós aprendemos inúmeras coisas a sós..
    Gosto do final da resposta do Benjamim, sobre o PLN…Mas ensinar e Aprender só ocorrem na perspectiva de Professor e aluno?

    Não podem ocorrer de outras formas?
    No Conectivismo não sei separar alunos e professores, separo informações, seleciono as que são interessantes ou não e então aprendo..
    E questiono na escola também não poderia ser da mesma forma?

  8. Pingback: What is lean startup? | Learner Weblog

  9. what are strategics,methods of teaching blind student? Is there any importance of teaching these learners with visual impairment

  10. Pingback: #Change11 #CCK12 Technology and design in teaching | Learner Weblog

  11. Teaching generally involves instruction, based on information (or procedures) dissemination – demonstration and modelling as Stephen postulated. Teaching would likely be an act on others, though you could self-teach as what I have suggested in this learning. Effective teaching requires both instruction and feedback, a two way communication between “teacher” and learner in order to ensure the learning has been achieved by the learner, with the accomplishment of learning outcomes and objectives, within a timeframe, like the SMART goals. Self-teaching may involve some advanced learning and teaching skills, a capacity of learning how to learn in order to self teach. Learning involves doing, practising, and reflecting in order to improve ones skills and knowledge throughout the learning cycle. Learning may also involve some forms of planning, executing, checking and acting, with the guidance of knowledgeable others.

    Would you like to share what parts of the post that you found not clearly understood?

  12. Pingback: #CCK11 What makes the difference? Teaching and ...

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