Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Understanding Teaching and Learning

Understanding Teaching and Learning, by Michael Prosser and Keith Trigwell (who happens to be the fellow who recommended my supervisor to me when I was looking at starting my PhD, for which I am very grateful), is one of the pile of books I'm ploughing through to get up to speed on educational theory in higher education. It's well written, and really focuses on hammering home several key points - that a student's learning outcomes depend on:

a) their prior experiences of learning - whether they had previously had good experiences that lead to quality learning
b) the student's perception of the situation they find themselves in - whether they see the particular learning situation as affording a deep approach to learning, and from this and (a),
c) the particular approach the student takes to learning in this context.

It focuses on trying to work out how to get students to take a deep approach to learning, and tries to explain why they don't in certain circumstances.

I can't recall the last time I read a textbook that concentrates in such depth on hammering home a single set of principles like this; it was a very impressive exercise. In a lot of ways it helped me set into place a lot of what I read in Biggs and Laurillard, so much more of the theory has clicked into place for me, and I'm able to read research papers with a much clearer idea of what they are talking about.

One of the things I find most interesting about entering a new field of study is getting to grips with the jargon, and education is one of those fields where the terminology is multi-layered; words that are in common parlance have a deeper and subtler meaning in books on educational theory, and so coming to terms with the terminology properly lets you understand in a lot more depth things that you thought you understood fully before your started. After all the reading I've done on this journey, and find myself thinking back to previous discussions I'd had or things I had read and pondered, and realizing I hadn't fully grasped the situation. It's also a nifty though that in a year or two I'll be thinking back on my current state of thought and be amused by its naivety.

Back on topic, Prosser and Trigwell = Good and thorough.

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