Saturday, October 01, 2011

Teaching Part II

Wow. I can't think of anything more intellectually demanding and exhausting than teaching. Teaching is some hard work, boy.
I've been embarking on a grand journey to learn how to teach better.

Here's a fun fact: people tend to learn in 20-minute lecture segments. My buddy Kevin told me that the Army learned that people only retained the first 20 minutes and the last 20 minutes of class -- so they did the Army thing and just made all classes 40 minutes long. That's amusing to me. But there seems to be some science behind the 20-minute rule.

I've been teaching Final Cut Pro. Now, I have the advantage that I've always taught to motivated learners. For you all teaching in (say) public schools, you don't have that advantage. And it's still hard to do!
Innocently, on Facebook, I asked if anyone knew of any books on teaching. Ha! That instantly turned into a political thread. Yeah, you can't talk about teaching without invoking ideology.
That doesn't make any sense to me. Why is "instructional method" so beset with feelings and not, you know, "84% of learners learn this way and 12% this other way with the remainder learning some other way blah blah blah."

Wow, there is a stunning paucity of information out there. That is 'till I got the message below, which I found quiet enlightening.

My good friend M. D. is an elementary school teacher. She came back with the following response which I think is the best and most concise treatise I have yet seen in all my research on the subject:

I can't think of any books on general teaching technique, and it's been a million years anyway, but you might want to check out some titles in specific subject areas, and then generalize the concepts. You might also be interested in a book on educatioal psychology--that would have research-based information that could be applied to any filed of study.
There are two basic schools of thought on the matter, with a lot of room for overlap. One, provide your students with all the materials they need to be successful, and hang around as their guide, offering input when needed, but allowing the student to be the "driver." This is great when it works, but is not suited to every student or time frame.
The traditional approach is more structured. In general, you want to be very clear about what you want your students to learn, and be careful not to overwhelm them with too much information at one time. Then give them opportunities to practice. After they have mastered the basic concept, you can fine-tune the process and aim for better results. Oh, and try not to let your dismay show when the answer you're looking for was "making chocolate chips cookies," and the answer you get is "a tornado can suck you right out the window."
Bear in mind that informataion rearely makes it into long-term memory without being actively processed by the learner: by taking notes, solving equations, writing essays, making movies, etc. And strong emotion skews the whole thing.
Also, try to be clear and multisensory when you present information to be learned. Graphic presentations are essential for many learners. Try to avoid visual clutter.

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