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Hello John,

On Mon, 25 Oct 1999, John M. Flanigan wrote:

> Am I the only one bothered by this train of thought? The students-not the
> professor-are the best judges of pedagogy? *SNIP*

I understand your point. Let me try and elaborate on my point to Steve.

Steve's friend teaches logic. Some of his students were having difficulty
learning/grasping that subject.  Since learning is the issue, I suggested
an approach to teaching the subject that has been proven to work well with
some adult learners.

In this case he was teaching logic; a difficult topic for some students.
Personally, I had no trouble understanding logic when it was taught to me
using the lecture method.  I did, however, have difficulty understanding
Quantitative Analysis when it was taught to me using the lecture method.
Different students learn differently.  Sometimes it is useful for a
teacher to employ various methodologies if that teacher's goal is to
maximize the potential for understanding.

Perhaps I should have expatiated on my technique.  It is based upon a
maxim that I hold to be quite true: "If you really want to learn a
subject, try teaching it."  In this methodology, the student becomes a
teacher.

I didn't just give the students my lesson plans for that lesson and say
"Have at it."; that would have been foolish. First,I gave them a whirlwind
tour of cooperative learning techniques, with some teambuilding training for a
foundation.  Next, the students were put into learning groups, given a
segment of the material, and instructed to read and teach each other that
material -- all in a specified period of time.  They had their textbooks,
my teaching notes, and at least one person in the group was placed there
because s/he could be counted on to have read the textbook material before
class.

The next step was for the students to discuss the material, check each
other for understanding, and then to apply it by using as many relevant
examples as possible.  Then, their task was to find a manner in which to
teach it to the rest of the class.

I was the facilitator, if you will.  As the groups presented their
material (some used skits, some lecture, etc.) I made certain that all of
the salient points were driven home.  I was also cognizant of the positive
reactions they exhibited whenever I praised them (liberally) for their
understanding, and their creativity in finding ways to help the rest of
us understand.

Whenever I use this technique, I always summarize the material at the end
of the class period in order to ensure closure and to make certain that
the lesson was internalized by as many students as possible.

This process is certainly time consuming, and definitely not for the
professor who has an aversion to "performing" or orchestrating a
complicated learning activity in the classroom. It is, however,
efficacious for subjects that are essential, but difficult for some
students to grasp.  Can you imagine teaching advanced topics in philosophy
when you know that some of the students do not truly understand logic?
In my own case, the challenge comes in the form of attempting to teach the
concept of "cognitive dissonance" to students in the context of how
managers can recognize, from exhibited behaviors, why some people in
organizations resist change or have ethical problems with some activity
they are expected to engage in while performing certain duties for the
organization.

Whatever the topic, it seems that it is incumbent upon us to utilize ALL
of the knowledge we have about learning and teaching in order to
facilitate student understanding.

In this long, drawn out monologue I have not written anything about levels
of student motivation and I suspect that that is part of your point.  I
approach the students as if they are eager to learn the material and to
find the jewels of wisdom that we can uncover together.  What if they
don't WANT to learn the material?  Well, that's up to them.  One thing is
for sure with this type of gambit though, it's difficult for disinterested
students to sleep or daydream when their peers are depending upon them to
help them understand the subject.

It has been proven over and over to me that this type of activity enhances
the learning process of difficult subjects.  Students do better on tests
of the material after I use this approach than they do when I use
other conventional methods.  More importantly, they retain the knowledge
AFTER the test. Additionally, they sometimes become more adept at learning
OTHER difficult topics in the same subject. In some cases, the students
generalize and apply the technique to topics and subjects in other
disciplines.

Adult learners are close, REAL close, to going out into the world and
attempting to use the acquired knowledge from their college experience.
In addition to being accomplished test-takers, I would hope that they are
able to be proficient problem solvers and deep thinkers as a result of
that experience.

Amen.  Class is ended.  Go in peace.

Pat Schutz