The first reading for this week is from How People Learn and is chapter three: Learning and Transfer. I’m curious about the order we’re reading the chapters in because it seems as if transfer should be thought about before assessment. Transfer seems like a complicated idea, because its not always obvious what parts of lessons can be moved from one discipline to another and I think it can be unexpected too.
I like where the book begins by stating that unless there’s mastery of the initial learning, it can’t be transferred, because its a common sense idea but one I never thought about. The next step with the fact that you need to truly understand something before you can transfer the knowledge fits in with how people learn. I know in my experience that I tend to make connections to things I feel sure about. So I’m more willing to connect to my knowledge of literature or performance, because I have so many years of approaching them from numerous angles, which allows me to bring them into play with new subjects.
The numbers that the book cites for how long it takes to truly master something jump out at me, because at 50,000 hours and more, they’re much larger than was mentioned in the gaming video last week of 10,000 hours. The difference in time makes me wonder how these numbers have been calculated, because it seems a tricky thing. Recording how long you do something is difficult unless there’s a set format for it. I can say that I worked this many hours at my various jobs, because they have clear shifts, but in terms of studying, its much more fluid. I might not be sitting at my computer typing something but I could be discussing what I learned in class with someone and that adds to my understanding. I know this is a tangent but the amount of time you have to learn keeps arising so I want to know more. Time is such a precious commodity in schools and libraries, because there are so many things that have to be done so time for instruction must be used wisely.
I wasn’t aware that contrasting could help so much with learning but I can see how it makes sense. If you only know something in the abstract or in a very particular set of circumstances then it will be much harder to use that knowledge elsewhere or understand it on a deeper level. Though I find it compelling that it can also go the other way, sometimes its hard to actually know what you know if the types of learning are so different from each other. This is something I’ve come across in terms of presentations in my formal education. I’m incredibly comfortable with acting and storytelling so running a storytime doesn’t require a lot of changing of my knowledge, but a powerpoint presentation with a defined structure can be hard for me. That’s because learning how to transfer my skills to fit into a specific presentation model isn’t obvious for me. This is something I’m improving on, but my preferred presentation model is closer to my safer space of telling a story then interacting with a screen behind me and the audience in front of me.
I appreciate that the book lays out that how we learn in school is different from how we act in other places and that can hamper transfer as its not always obvious how to move things from one part of life to another. Though this can be complicated, authentic learning can be important and key to what someone takes away from school, but as the book points out abstract learning also has lessons. As with so many things in terms of teaching, there are no easy answers.
The second reading for this week is an article by Wiggins and McTighe called Teaching for Understanding from 2005. This article starts off strongly by showing how most students don’t see their education as something they can take and use in the real world and how important it is for them to learn how to do that. The three instructional techniques mentioned near the beginning; direct instruction, facilitation and coaching seem like powerful tools that have many different names. The author then uses transfer, meaning and acquisition to help think about how these styles of teaching can be brought into the classroom. Again its the combination of types of teaching that will help students understand the material and be able to take it outside the context of school.
As always with these articles, I’m struck by just how much research and thought has been put into how people learn and what helps students and how difficult it is to make this work across curricula. One of the trickiest parts of the world of education is just how big and diverse it is and in the world of libraries, some of the same problems appear. What might work and be enjoyed in one library might fall flat in another and so it can be tricky to create successful nationwide programs.