On the Subject of Intelligence — a Further Look into the Future of Learning

This week’s activities and the resources provided for us have been so engaging and thought provoking. I have learned so much especially from
Professor Gordon Stobart’s sharing on how “the expert learners” became experts in their field of learning and the many factors that contribute to their ‘becoming experts.’ I’m also quite fascinated by how he dislikes the word ‘ability’ simply because this leads people into the wrong notion that this causes people to learn when in fact it really is just a measure of learning.

As a teacher, I found this view very helpful as it gave me a better understanding of how people learn in addition to the concepts we have already discussed last week. This view on learning is particularly important to me because it has given me an answer to why some of my students are just finding it so hard to understand some of the concepts we are tackling in school. It has also made me realise how important it is to make parents aware of the importance of their role in providing the best possible environment for their children as they grow up, ensuring that opportunities of learning are within reach.

During your own education, how has your “intelligence” been assessed?

Back in the days, learning was more teacher centred and the way in which we were assessed was through oral recitations and written tests. Only a few subjects required us to do performance assessments — Music, English, and Filipino. These performance assessments were only a part of the total package because all subjects were required to do a final written exam anyway.

How has this affected the educational opportunities you have been given? What judgments have people made about you that have been affected by an assessment of your “intelligence”?

This has definitely limited the educational opportunities I was given. I found it unfair because it did not really measure how well I have learned in school. It has focused so much on how well I could express my learning through written tests when in fact I could still prove that I have learned something through static images, blogs, music, drama, and the like. Because of this, there were times when my parents got so disappointed in me because I was given marks that did not really represent me as a learner. I remember having a very sad graduation in high school because I didn’t get any award from school.

Do you consider yourself to be a “learner”? why?

Yes, of course. I am a learner because I like to ask questions about things happening around me. I love to explore on areas that I am interested in — Education, Fiction, Music, Baking and Cooking, among others. I am a learner because I want to become better in what I do.

As we dig deeper into the subject of LEARNING, I am becoming more convinced that the future of education should be focused more on helping students develop their skills further in areas they are interested in. Over the years, we have made school curricula that’s too focused on the academic subjects — English, Math, Science, History, among others. We envisioned success to be doing well only in these areas, so that doing well in singing, dancing, drawing, carving, baking, cooking, was frowned upon and considered ‘low.’ This can easily be determined in the salary scales that governments and companies use in paying employees.

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Week 1: Journal Entry

Based on your experience as a learner, what do you think you will be able to get out of this course? And what ideas do you already have about the future of education?

Allow me to begin by stating that I have quite enjoyed our first week in this course. It is quite interesting how this course is being facilitated. I’m particularly interested in how students are being graded here. It reflects so much the development in how people learn and where the new millennium has taken us so far in terms of learning. Peer-evaluation or peer-grading, I think, is quite fair and very much student-centred. It is non-threatening, and it also reflects so much what Dr Eleanore Hargreaves tried to discuss during her interview on ‘constructivism’, whereby the central focus of the learning process is the student’s construction of his or her own learning, and thereby enabling him or her to begin where needed. This reflective assignment has made me think about my own ways of learning and checked it against the theories of learning discussed in the interviews, and then managed to compare it to how other people learn through the discussions in the forums. For me, this week, it is not so much the new learning that I got from the activities, but really the affirmation of the ideas I already had about learning (which, of course, I also got from my personal experiences in teaching and learning before). It feels so good to know that I actually share the same thoughts and ideas with my classmates here in this course, our mentors, and especially the professors who shared their well-informed knowledge about the theories of learning this week.

WHAT WILL I GET OUT OF THIS COURSE?

What I will definitely get from this course is (1) the affirmation of ideas I already learned before, and (2) the new concepts regarding learning that I will be learning especially from my classmates here who are learners from other cultures. As teachers of the 21st century, I think our challenge really is to be as knowledgeable as possible of the different cultures of the world. Our classrooms are getting so diverse at present because of globalisation (Moloney & Saltmarsh, 2016). People migrate for various reasons and they end up studying in the country they have migrated to. The internet has also opened endless amount of possibilities for people to interact; this online course we are taking is just one of them. Hence, whether we like it or not, we will have to teach students according to their own context of learning (Thaman, 2009). We will have to learn how to figure out how best our students learn (considering their own cultural context) in order to facilitate their learning effectively. Hence, in this course, I really would like to expand my knowledge on how learners from other cultures learn.

Interestingly, I have already picked up a few things and one of them is on how Italian students are used to lectures. I quite understand the fact that 21st century learning, as emphasised here in this course, is very much the real deal — learning about learning (metacognition), constructivism, the theory of multiple intelligence, among others. Whilst I agree that we can get so much from these progressive theories of learning and that learning in our classrooms should already be facilitated this way, I feel that there is also a need to be respectful of how learning occurs for learners of other cultures as in the case of our Italian friends. I have learned from other experts who focus on indigenous education that there is so much wisdom that we can actually get from how indigenous people learned in the past. A lot of these cultural values and practices and the way in which these are passed on from generation to generation may very well give solution to the various problems our world is facing today especially in regards to sustainable development (Teasdale & Teasdale, 1995). I do not consider myself an expert on Italian culture, but there might be a very good reason why some of their teachers are still teaching the traditional way. There might be some cultural implications to this just like how they continue to do and share opera music today despite new trends in musical composition and arrangement. This respect in how people from other cultures learn was in fact supported by Dr Hargreaves in her interview when she stated how, “each culture will have different purposes of learning.” Dr. Hargreaves was so careful in handling this topic in order to be culturally sensitive, and she emphasised in her discussion that the ‘how’ of learning will depend on the ‘why’ and intentions of learning. This might actually explain why some Italian teachers continue to teach the traditional way today. But certainly, the Italian Educators will also have to look into what they can actually collect and make use of in the new trends of teaching and learning. There is so much we can actually get from being open-minded.

MY IDEAS ON THE FUTURE OF LEARNING

As was shared by Dr Hargreaves, I think the future of learning will be more student-centred where students will be offered a curriculum that makes more sense. Students are now empowered to take responsibility of their own learning, and assessments will focus on looking at how well the students have facilitated their own learning (constructivism). Teachers are more and more becoming observers of how students are learning. They allow students to discover for themselves (discovery learning) what there is to learn and more importantly how it is to learn the best way possible (metacognition).
References:

Moloney, R., & Saltmarsh, D. (2016). ‘Knowing Your Students’ in the Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Classroom.Australian Journal of Teacher Education, 41 (4).

Thaman, K. (2009). Educational Ideas from Oceania: Selected Readings. Institute of Education in association with the UNESCO Chair of Teacher and Culture. University of the South Pacific.

Teasdale, B., & Teasdale, J. (1995). Voices in a Shell: Education, Culture and Identity. University of the South Pacific

How do we learn?

Reflect on:

  • your previous learning experiences. Think about one particularly successful and one unsuccessful learning experience. Consider what were the conditions that made this experience successful or unsuccessful for you and what this tells you about your own preferred ways to learn.

Personally, I think the best learning moments for me were the times when I didn’t have to think about grades and impressing anyone in particular. I learned best when topics and activities were engaging, relevant, and purposeful. I do believe that there is so much we can gain from healthy competition and from graded activities, but I also think that there are plenty of things we missed out on such learning conditions.

I remember going through an extensive training on scuba diving a couple of years ago. I may not remember some of the technical terms anymore, but I sure can remember the important concepts that make scuba diving possible. I learned about buoyancy and the importance of weights and floating devices that keep us positively buoyant as we swim gracefully underwater. I learned about how air gets compressed as we swim deeper into the ocean because of pressure, and how the idea of this links to other important ideas like breathing properly, equalizing and staying down a few meters away from the surface for a couple of minutes in order to normalize air inside our bodies. I consider this as one of my best learning experiences not only because it was interesting but because it was engaging, practical, relevant, and very meaningful to me. My trainer was very explicit in her teaching. She made sure that I understood every important idea there is to learn about scuba diving.

When I think about the not so productive learning experiences for me, I remember those that didn’t involve explicit teaching. These were the times when my teacher decided to assign book chapters for me to report about. Most of the time, I was clueless about what exactly to do because there were no exemplars or models I can follow in order to complete the task at hand. Most of the time, I was figuring out how best to present the topic just to impress my teacher. I thought it was a waste of time trying to figure out how my teacher would like things to be presented. What made things worse was that I only received feedback on how I reported and not so much on what I reported about. I guess reporting only works when the teacher is really good at pinpointing the important points to learn from and is able to work out a lesson that targets the misconceptions and the learning points that the reporters failed to point out. There should be a good synthesis from the teacher at the end of the lesson in order to ensure that the important ideas are fully understood by the students.

As a teacher myself, I firmly believe in teaching with exemplars. There is so much wisdom in looking at a piece of essay (for example) and pointing out why the piece of work is exceptional or poorly crafted. I especially like showing my students the errors and the sections that needed reworking. I often get the ‘ahh…I see’ from them every time.

Learning, for me, also works best when your teacher makes an effort in knowing how you learn best. There are some of us who learn best with visuals, some when they are able to move around, others when they are listening to music, some others learn best just by listening to lectures. I have a friend who wanted to learn how to cook. I had to demonstrate it for her because there was no way she could have understood the whole cooking process without seeing it done in front of her.

Knowing how a student learns best also entails learning about the culture of the student. This should be able to explain why a student (for example) is not confident in voicing out his or her opinions in class because, in his or her culture, young individuals are forbidden from raising arguments, especially to authorities like teachers.

There are still many other things to consider about how best a human being learns, and it pays to know them well if we were to consider looking into the future of learning.