Vol. 16 : No. 2< >
Editor's Note: Dr. Guy Bensusan was a leader of interactive distance learning for more than thirty of the fifty years he dedicated to the teaching of Humanities, Arts, History and Culture. Much of his work has been published in USDLA Journal over the past seven years. We are pleased to continue to publish the essence of his explorations and ideas about learning. He would encourage us, were he still with us, to adapt and experiment with his ideas rather than to imitate them. Please address all inquiries to USDLA Journal Editors, firstname.lastname@example.org
Thoughts on Learning and Fostering It
· Information is a basic component of learning and memorizing is a low rung on the learning-ladder whether one follows Bloom, Brookfield, Dewey, Freire, Knowles, Maslow, Piaget or Vygotsky.
· What learners DO with information and the realization spectrum, while they digest, consider and massage elements into sensible order, is what constitutes the PROCESS and the LEARNING.
· Learning is personal, individual and occurs day-by-day -- even if one only becomes conscious of new acquisition from time to time.
· In learning, one crosses many one-way thresholds, gains vistas previously unseen, is altered by each, and is unable to go back.
· Each climbing of the learning stairway will reveal something not previously seen; it was there all the time, but the learner was not yet ready to take it in.
· You cannot learn for others nor they for you; you CAN augment learning with cooperation and non-competitive sharing.
· Some learners pioneer, others lead, many follow, while some will watch, wait and come along when they are ready. Their alleged "failure" to learn is often caused by externally imposed constraints and outlooks.
· Since learning styles are individual in form and pace, nearly any productive path serves initially. Others can be suggested, practiced and acquired. Learners will later augment their own initial learning preferences.
· Learners learn more by reading, writing and interacting with others on the subject than by listening to experts.
· Through their writings and conversations with each other, learners reveal how they think, understand and substantiate; teachers who watch and listen with open minds find clues for fostering growth.
· A learning-centered teacher will ask questions to help move along the inquiry, engagement and choice-making thus building awareness of causes, implications, side effects, parallels, contrasts and consequences.
· Standing back and allowing learners to do their learning is often difficult for teachers with expertise who feel they must "cover lots of material". That expertise can be accessed in other ways besides lecture.
· Most learning does not come with a single intuitive ZAP as we are fed to believe in comic strips. We learn via many small steps in succession, interspersed with occasional larger ones.
· We need to remind ourselves often that we are designing for LEARNING and not for INSTRUCTION.
· Repetition and alteration patterns used in music, rhythm and dance are vital exercises: create a step, do it again, add something, repeat it, alter it, repeat both, continue to add another consideration each time.
· Offering help to learners can be tricky, since prior obedience to direction from teachers has been deeply conditioned. Indirection is usually more productive than direction.
· Internal guidance is a long-range goal for learners, but switchover is not easy and requires practice, practice, practice, plus opportunity to make mistakes, recognize them and redirect the process.
· It helps to set up a stairway of asynchronous interactions allowing learners to learn on their own time and computers, without feeling intimidated by classroom pressures.
· If synchronous time is available it can well be used for discussion among the learners and their visions of problem solving about asynchronous work.
· Suggesting several alternative paths (at least three -- to avoid the traps of either-or), allows learners to establish criteria for their choice making, and gain experience through practice that makes these formulations come faster and more easily.
· Super-performance is not a useful goal for beginning learners. Encourage exploration and fumbling around, as well as help them make many small pieces they can assemble in various ways and evaluate.
· When learners explore meanings, they construct their own orientation, develop confidence and become willing to offer help to others. Sharing learning in a constructive environment builds teams and communities.
· Encourage learning about criteria for solid, reasoned and excellent work. Encourage learners to assess each other's writing by asking questions about ideas and how things fit together.
· Let learners help each other create standards with justifications they think should be supported.
· Encourage them to have patience with each other and themselves as they build their own stairways. Help them see and practice how to get through the many steps in various ways.
· Be willing to discuss several diverse interpretations of events, causes and consequences in order to help learners gain practice with explanation tools.
· It is highly acceptable to express a personal preference for one interpretation or school over another, especially where explanations will help learners comprehend the rationales, data and assumptions underlying them.
· Help learners climb their own stairways and LET them. If in doubt as to whether to intervene, count to ten slowly and then wait another day -- by then it often will not be necessary.
· Work yourself out of the job as early as you can in the semester, but stick around, watch and make certain everyone gets all the way through.
· These matters are ever more an ongoing activity for a lifetime as the velocity of our cultural changes accelerates.