Monday, May 10, 2010


Tēnā koutou katoa - Greetings to you all
Johnstone's Information Processing Model
As teacher, I often tramp the journey. Most of the way, I learn more than I teach, which is fortunate as I’m bored easily.

Even the well trodden-paths bear fruit. But I have to be more aware when pacing there; vigilant, else I miss what is to be learnt.

As teacher, most of what I learn on the well-tramped lanes happens as I watch others less familiar with the paths. This learning is the most enlightening, yet so difficult to pass on to others.

I’ve begun to understand why.

As teacher, all learning is a journey. How can a learner explain the destinations to someone who has never been there and seen what they’re like? There is often no measure to compare, no gradation to gauge against, and no foundation to build upon.

And so learning, once accumulated, is not necessarily always useful. At least, not as useful as we might think it should be. And so it is that the adage of teachers ‘filling jugs’ doesn’t really work, no more than their teaching does.

Johnstone’s Information Processing Model, a simplified version which heads this post, suggests that there is a real need to tread the ways often. It implies that learners may not be wholly aware of what’s to be learnt on the way, nor of its significance even if they were.

It also reinforces that perhaps filling jugs doesn’t work so smoothly, that much is spilt in the process – that many approaches may have to be tried before the jugs contain anything useful at all.

Ka kite anō - Catchya later


V Yonkers said...

One of my best teachers, a very strict nun I had for Chemistry, insisted on having those that were "OK" in the subject tutor those that were struggling. As students, we didn't understand this, questioning why she wouldn't have the more advanced students tutor those that were having difficulty. Instead, she had those that were doing aright tutored by the advanced students.

Her explanation was that when you need to teach another person, you understand the content better yourself. Later on, Kolb's idea that putting a concept into words helps to create new knowledge and understanding. The truth in Sr. Clarence's (yes, that was her name) and Kolb's ideas follow me into the classroom every semester. It is amazing how my students' questions makes me understand a topic I have taught over and over again.

However, I wonder how many teachers AND students think that they know everything and understand everything there is to know about a topic, so aren't open to new understandings. To continue using your pitcher metaphor, you can't get liquid into a glass or pitcher if you have a top on it. It is a teacher's role to create an atmosphere in the classroom or learning environment that allows for spills. Who knows, maybe some of the "spills" will land on others, thus creating a greater level of understanding from those that may "already know."

Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Tēnā koe Virginia!

Thank you for this.

The buddy system that your teacher used is a good one when used with learners.

The cognitive apprenticeship theory also explains why the more experienced learner can often not be as successful at tutoring as the lesser experienced learner. This too is a factor in your teacher's method of buddying up OK learners with struggling ones.

Catchya later