Archive for November, 2006

Book Recommendations

Wednesday, November 15th, 2006
  • Person Centered Graduate Education, Roy P. Fairfield, Ph.D., 1977, Prometheus Books, Buffalo, NY. Written by a dear friend, colleague, and mentor of over 25 years, this remains a classic! Definitely worth tracking down and reading!
  • Another classic: Freedom To Learn by the great psychologist Carl Rogers, 1969, Charles E. Merrill Publishing Co., Columbus, Ohio. This one is multi-level, provokes insight into yourself, and makes a lot of relevant connections, thereby proving that books written back in the late 1900’s are still valuable and relevant in the 21st Century!
  • Also, any book by educator John Holt, especially What Do I Do Monday?, 1970, E.P.Dutton & Co., NY. (But also his books How Children Fail and How Children Learn.) Practical, easy-to-apply and full of insight into our individual learning styles.)
  • For a new perspective on all those things you memorized in school, try scoping out An Underground Education by Richard Zacks, 1997, Doubleday, NY. A fascinating trip through the wild, weird, and fantastical facts you may have missed in your curriculum.

Together We Learn (Part I)

Sunday, November 5th, 2006

Together We Learn,

Each in His/Her Own Way

Imagine designing a university that really helps the student learn. What do we need to consider in order to build such a vision? Three areas of focus immediately come to mind: the role of the faculty and their image, how we learn –our own individual styles, and whether we need to think about things learned alone or together with others, and how we apply what we learn. Traditionally, the model is simple: faculty knows the material, we learn by individually taking notes during lectures, and the only application really emphasized is that of being able to take a test and regurgitate what we heard. Is that all there is?

Such a traditional model has failed miserably, to the detriment of many a student, especially those who approach the halls of education with a mind that already thinks and a set of experiences unlike anyone else’s. For years we’ve known that children all have different learning styles; that they each use a different pattern of senses and maybe even different areas of the brain and body to assimilate the material being presented. Now the time has come to apply that knowledge to the area of university studies.

The process of education really exists as a series of events. First there is the activity itself, the experiencing of something new or something familiar from a new perspective. Second, there is the sharing of observations, which may include talking, publishing the written word, or even painting, singing, somehow doing what we learned, repeating the example but with our own stamp and elaboration. Third, there is the process of discussing and recognizing dynamics and patterns, and generalizing from these shared observations to develop new principles and insights. Finally there is the process of figuring out how to use these new concepts and insights, testing their applicability.

So what is the difference between traditional and facilitative instruction? Since the facilitator (sometimes called the ‘teacher’) is an individual in and of him or her self, he or she cannot ‘know’ everything about the material, nor can one imagine in advance what means the students will use to ‘learn’ it or even what questions the students might ask. Lecturing and taking notes will only use up the time of those whose minds process in other ways than hearing, writing, and memorizing.