Demystify Demystification about Learning

In this week, we were introduced with new topics in GEDI — teaching and learning. Ken Robinson’s TED talk and reading articles criticize the traditional in-class teaching. Ken Robinson talked about the importance of regarding individuality and creating learning environment. The article “Anti-Teaching: Confronting the Crisis of Significance” echo the TED talk, Michael Welsh also emphasizes on learning instinct in human and the role of teachers in encouraging students to learning. I do appreciate that the two authors found the fundamental distinction between teaching and learning. For teaching, we take the perspective of instructors and see students as passive and uniform information receivers; whereas, we take the perspective of learner when using the term “learning’ which entails uniqueness of every student. No matter whether I am an instructor or a student, I strongly agree with it.

Michael Welsh’s point about finding the significance in learning is similar to¬†Maslow’s argument about means and ends. Maslow discussed the motivation in his popular work “Motivation and Personality” (1969) and argued that some behaviors are just means to fulfill certain goals, whereas other behaviors themselves are the ends. Michael Welsh seems to suggest to find a purpose or significance for learning is important, which also relates to connected learning we covered in last week. However, Maslow noted that enjoying doing something just for its own sake is a more sustain motivation. Apply it to learning, to find significance in a bigger picture is good, learning itself might be fun and the motivation to learning.

We can also find its root in Maslow’s work in the article Mindful Learning. Ellen Langer suggests that focusing on present learning have better effects in learning, which is similar to Maslow’s concepts. However, close examination reveals that Ellen Langer’s argument is contradictory to Michael Welsh’s points in some ways. Mindful learning not only means not relying on past learning but also means not being influenced by future. Past learning, by Ellen Langer, is stereotype. Future, here, is the significance in Michael Welsh’s paper. Therefore, learning with mind is more like Maslow’s concept than¬†Michael Welsh’s argument. Moreover, my own experiences tell a different story from Ellen Langer’s demystification. Practice is necessary for understanding knowledge and any types of creation. only after I master “basics” and skills and do not need much mental effort to think about these “basics” and skills, do I have chances to build something on them, to create.

Taken these together, I think these authors provide with different perspectives to look at learning and teaching, but while they are trying to explain away the myths about learning we should not mystify their arguments.

One thought on “Demystify Demystification about Learning”

  1. Really like how you bring Maslow into this post. However, I do wonder about the idea of needing to learn the basics before moving onto more complex ideas. This may be true for very fundamental things like addition and subtraction, but what about for other problems. An example could be exposing sophomores to problems which are significantly above their current level of understanding, say a senior level open ended problem. Of course they would struggle with no guidance, but what if there was a structured way to lead them through their questions to an understanding of the problem. This could be a great moment for a student to really tackle something that they would not see for years to come. Is this the best way to do it, who knows, but is an alternative idea to challenge the status quo in foundational education.

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