With Thanks To …
My thanks go to Mary-Kay Goindi (twitter: @MaryKayG) and Tom Whitby (Ning: http://edupln.ning.com , twitter : @tomwhitby) for prompting this post.
The exchange of tweets that led to this post is:
MaryKayG: “Teaching should be about uncovering rather than covering so that the outcome is learning rather than remembering.” 12-Nov-2009, 20:12
philhart: “.@MaryKayG You pose a deep question about the nature of understanding. I wish I knew the answer” 12-Nov-2009, 20:14
tomwhitby: “@philhart Does not knowing the answer to that question offer some insight into the nature of understanding? I wish I knew the answer” 12-Nov-2009, 20:21
philhart: “.@tomwhitby You and me too!” 12-Nov-2009, 20:23
For me, learning is founded on the nature of our perceptions of the world, and how we come to acquire those perceptions. Our perceptions and our motives govern how we behave in the world. This in turn impacts on how we learn.
Knowledge, or “things that I know”: Some knowledge concerns long-term things (“If I drop a brick on my toe, it will hurt”), while other knowledge is fleeting (“That glass is full on orange juice” – at the moment). They are facts.
The word “competence” is used here in its educational sense, in that somebody’s response to something can be described as:
- can recognise …
- can describe …
- can explain …
- can develop …
which reflect varying amounts of knowledge about the subject. In this sense, somebody receives a stimulus, compares it with what they already know, and respond accordingly. To be able to do this, the individual must have learned something (even if it is only what it looks/feels/sounds/tastes like) and be remembering that.
It is perhaps a fine distinction, but for me a fact is only useful to me if it has relevance to my life. By transforming knowledge into understanding, I can act on it.
Part of my learning comes from being presented with things to learn about. This includes things like numbers, and I am numerate as a result. I was taught French three separate times: it was not until I spent some time in France that I really started learning French.
Another part of my learning comes from puzzling out the answer to something. This is in a sense where my teacher has withheld the answer from me, but is nevertheless in a position to verify my answer when I have the “Aha!” moment. That I have found an answer myself means that I am more likely to remember it.
The more I look at MaryKayG’s initial tweet, the less I think I understand what she was saying, but I am grateful to her for making me think!