Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Making Learning Relevant to Learners

Are schools continuously undervaluing the sense of imagination and creativity while learning? Are students conditioned to think in limited ways?

Creativity and imagination is part of human development and the process of learning that is mysterious, surprising, and ambiguous. The process is active in the construction of knowledge through experiences and interactions. With technology rapidly progressing and a new generation developing, traditional teaching has to evolve with the time period and trends as well as learners reimagining learning. I believe creativity and imagination should be encouraged to enable learners to construct their own solution, meaning making or explanation.

Learning isn't about receiving and absorbing information directly from other source(s), but about creativity, embellishment, exploration and connection in constructing knowledge. Presenting a new topic in a situated context that is authentic allows learners to be actively involved in constructing or making sense of the specific topic as it is applicable to the skills or knowledge that would be used in the specific area being introduced. So, imagination and creativity isn't about teaching those concepts, but allowing learners to think, create, and consider new possibilities. 

Imaginative learning allows the ability for learners to construct their dreams and goals as well as develop empathy, critical awareness, self-confidence, self-regulation, and self-esteem. Goal(s) influence the learner's level of motivation to engage in goal-directed performance, which combined with targeted feedback are crucial to learning and building positive expectancies. Learning by creating/designing permits the ability for reflection, retrieval practices, reinforcement, and retention as well as retrieving knowledge and skills from experiences that are depicted from memory, which is considered an effective tool for learning and retention. Essentially, depth learning entails imagination and creativity in various learning strategies to impact and influence approaches to cognitive responses, social development, communication skills and potential opportunities that learners can transfer applied knowledge in novel environments.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Assessment... Is learning taking place?

There are a number of puzzle pieces to learning, which isn’t solely the assessment instrument, but also academic standards, specific state standards, Common Core ideas, essential questions, and instructional strategies. The common problem in K-12 is that the curriculum does not align with the Standards of Learning (SOLs). Different types of assessment instruments provide information for various decisions, but not every assessment procedure is applicable or serve some types of decisions effectively. Preparation for learning begins with lucid learning objectives, learning goals, and expectations in which is the foundation to assessment and instruction. Assessment and instruction are synchronized with three key concepts, behavior (classroom demeanor), motivation (student effort in application), and learning (student achievement/understanding/performance).

The question posed, is how do we engage on each key concept, while aligning with the SOLs without impeding on creativity, critical thinking, and problem solving? After viewing the Dan Pink video, I realized that engagement begins with self-direction, exploration, reasoning, questioning, and discovery. As Dan Pink shared a narrow focus restricts possibilities, but possibly increasing rigor on assessments will permit teachers the pathway to provide students with different possibilities as well as allowing students to construct their meaning and interpretations in the specific subject area to demonstrate their mastery and autonomy. Currently in some subjects, assessments are narrow to some extent, and mostly offer students multiple choice options, instead of options for students to demonstrate their mastery in the subject area. 

Classroom climate, instruction, coordination, and collaboration alignment provides a basis for valid assessment in understanding the relationship with learner and content. Its a system that works holistically relevant to both individual students (learning decisions) and about groups of students (teaching/instructional decisions). The cliche is "Assessment should not be for the sake of assessing", but to add to the heavily used cliche, looking at the results/reporting to improve upon as well as a reinforcement tool for measuring students understanding. Students’ benefit as well from assessment in making informed decision(s) about their learning in which is contingent upon the teacher integrating feedback into the instructional process that provides students with stages of progress as well as providing students with the skill set in self-assessing their learning. 

Ultimately, being aware of various assessments and how it relates or align with learner performance on those particular assessments is vital as well as taking in consideration state standards and ensuring that learning objectives and student assessments align with selected standards. My personal opinion is that go assessments benefits the learner and the assessor in various ways.

Monday, September 7, 2015

The Yoga of Learning... Mindful Learning

Yoga is a technique that one has to master and practice common or basic poses before transiting into more advanced poses. It's best practice as a yogi to honor where you are in your practice, but know that you can work on perfecting challenging poses. Many yogis who face challenges save their issues for when they are within a group setting, which is their learning community or practicing
one-on-one with a teacher. There are a number of things to remember in practicing yoga like, being open, visualizing, being present, moving mindfully and slowly, breathing,  focusing, and letting go to name a few. When thinking of mindful learning, I think of the yoga of learning. In order to remember common techniques in yoga, you need to have repeated exposure to those techniques and practice, which is much like learning.

Cramming for a yoga class provides no long-term benefit and neither does cramming for a test/exam, the information is only stored for a limited time and fails to produce long-term learning and retention. Yoga isn't an easy technique to master and in order to be an effective learner, one should exercise self-regulation in dismissing external distractions and identifying new methods to increase the level of attention.

Learning isn't meant to be simplistic or easy to some degree, a little struggle is acceptable for the learner, because when the mind has to work, learning embeds better. More effort to retrieve the learning/knowledge when struggle or challenge takes place strengthens learning by that retrieval. When I think of mindful learning, I think of capturing retrieval in which ties the knot for memory and with enough retrieval access, creates pathways/shortcuts into easily accessing that knowledge. Teachers utilize this retrieval practice through assessment, which good assessment involves instant feedback from the retrieval practice effect. So, good assessment should be the core of good informed decision-making and instruction development.  Assessment aid teachers’ classroom decisions as well as provide vital information for those particular decisions.

Learning and memory consist of practice, recall, exposure, elaboration, and sleep, which is necessary to strengthen both memory and cues over an extended time period. The brain connects concepts with prior knowledge, deciphers similarities, and differences when new information is added to existing, which links learning and recall making adaptability. Much like yoga, as we master basic poses, we move to more advanced poses, with learning as we master a specific content area we transition into the next phase, and much like teaching in order to progress students to their mastery, we have to make connections with prior knowledge to construct the foundation to new knowledge.

Learners have a sense of solidarity in their prior knowledge, lack the skills or substance, and teachers have misconceptions that hinder new knowledge being useful. Essentially, knowledge can be organized, either facilitates or impedes learning, but how one organizes the knowledge influences the learning, application and execution, so link them comprehensible. Yoga an learning involves mindful learning in retrieving knowledge and skills from experiences, which are depicted from memory. More effort is applied in the practice of delayed retrieval, which reinforces retention on being able to access those yoga poses or specific content. 

Chill Break, Enjoy :)