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Gerardo Castillo Ceballos, Professor of the School of Education and Psychology

Rethinking our learning model

Tue, 16 May 2017 11:19:00 +0000 Published in Montañes Newspaper

What do the latest reports from international organizations reveal about learning in Spanish secondary schools teaching ?

It is, in general terms, learning not to know, but to approve; it is centered on knowledge that is independent of each other and that demands only a memorized effort. As a consequence, comprehension, expression and application of contents are neglected. The aim is still to adapt the child to the school, instead of adapting the school to the child; teaching is still based on the teacher's word and not on the student's activity and on learning by finding staff .

From this mentality, school failure is blamed only on the indolence of students, never on the deficiencies of the system educational. It is ignored that the lack of performance in learning can also be due to the unsuitability of student to the school, due to unrealistic pedagogical plans and ineffective forms of teaching .

 Is it easy to be a good student when the school does not reservation time to study, when you study in places that impede concentration or when teachers are not expected to make sure that their students learn how to learn their subject?

A typical day for a student at teaching secondary school usually goes like this: attendance to a minimum of five lessons of subject expository with a few minutes break in between; student participation is limited to note-taking, since they do not usually have the opportunity to ask questions. Many professors are more concerned about keeping up with the development program (explaining the syllabus), than spending some time to clarify what the students do not understand. Is that developing the program? Can interest and attention be maintained by listening to lectures for five hours almost in a row?

With this approach, there is no study time during the school workshop . When do they study the notes of the five or more classes a day? They will have to do it in extracurricular time (homework), which prevents rest, free time and family time. In what study environment? The usual is in a house with a lot of noise (phone calls, sound of television and household appliances, etc.) and with the temptation of video games, especially in the frequent case that parents are absent.

Today it is necessary to update the concept of learning in many schools. Learning is a modification of behavior through experience. In the constructivist conception of Ausubel and Vygotsky, learning is the result of a construction made by the learner when acting on the object to be apprehended. This process implies a mental change, from a starting status to a new cognitive state.

 For Ausubel, the most important factor in the learning process is what the learner already knows. Meaningful learning is achieved through the interaction of the knowledge and experiences that a student has about a subject and the new information it receives. It involves relating what is not yet known with what is already known, thus seeking answers to previous questions. This allows assimilating the contents with more interest and ease (Cfr. Ausubel, P.: Cognitive Psychology, 1989).

Learning thus understood requires guiding teachers. To teach is to help student learn to learn without substituting for him/her: suggesting goals, arousing in him/her motives and a style of learning, guiding him/her on the method of study. To achieve this, it is necessary to develop some moral virtues, since they are dispositive causes of knowledge, especially studiousness (studiousness).

Studying stimulates the willingness to learn in depth about topic. Currently, many students are not able to overcome the discomfort that comes with the work of studying: they postpone the beginning of the study, make unnecessary interruptions, give up too soon to understand an idea or solve a problem, jump from one page to another without going deeper into any of them.

Studiousness is the opposite of rushed and superficial study. It requires looking at each topic with good eyes and slowly, reaching contemplation; it is constancy on the same page, heart to hold on to an idea or a problem until the exact answer or solution is found.

A very advisable didactic procedure to teach how to learn is to develop some classes in the form of Directed Study. The students learn the topic of the day, not by passively listening to the teacher's exhibition , but by studying with the teacher. The teacher proposes, initially, the study technique that the students should use and then advises them on its application before and after starting their study-work. This procedure is a participatory class , it allows students to have time to study within the schedule school and learn to study in a internship way, developing correct study habits.