Teaching and Learning: Lost in a Buzzword Wasteland

Murphy, James


Chew, S. L., & Cerbin, W. J. (2017, December 5). Teaching and learning: Lost in a buzzword wasteland. Retrieved May 12, 2018, from https://www.insidehighered.com/views/2017/12/05/need-theory-learning-opinion

This article takes a critical look at trends in education and relates that innovation successes are largely attributable to teacher excitement. After the teacher is no longer excited, the innovation may turn out to be no better than the previous trend. Despite increased research in pedagogy, concrete, evidence-based improvement in results remains elusive. The authors attribute this to a “Lack of a comprehensive, empirically validated model of how students learn.” The authors then propose how educators could start down the path to developing this model. They also claim that students have individual differences that call for tailored teaching and learning, rather than a one size fits all approach. They also list many cognitive factors that should be addressed in teaching and learning theory. They conclude the article by positing that there is not one best teaching method, but that there are best teaching methods appropriate to different situations.

I thought this was a very interesting article as it proposes major theoretical changes, supported by evidence-based practices, in the field of pedagogy. It is an ambitious proposal, but one that has merit. I think anyone who has explained the same concept very differently to two different students can appreciate what the authors are trying to articulate. The challenge, of course, is that a classroom teacher cannot always do this for 20+ students.

Projects with Technology Do Good Things

Post by Lora Poser-Brown


Kingston, Sally and Lenz, Bob. “Blending Technology into Project Based Learning.” Partnerships for 21st Century Learning. Jan. 21, 2016. http://www.p21.org/news-events/p21blog/1832-blending-technology-into-project-based-learning

Overview: This article discusses many ways to incorporate projects and technology in regular instruction. In addition, justification is given for more projects with evidence that doing so increases attendance, scores, engagement, social skills, and more.

Analysis: The article was a quick read with great concrete examples for teachers. Furthermore, the ideas given can easily be adapted for different ages and subjects. The article makes project based learning seem less daunting for those new to the teaching style.

Video Record for Teacher Feedback

Post by Lora Poser-Brown


Gates, Bill. “Teachers Need Real Feedback.” Ted Talk. May 8, 2013. Viewed Nov. 8, 2016. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=81Ub0SMxZQo

Overview: Teachers are rarely evaluated for improvement. To improve best practices, though, far more discussion and reflection needs to be happening in US education. MET – Measures of Effective Teaching. Using video of self and “experts” to improve instructional quality. Project promoted and funded by the Gates Foundation.
Analysis: This video is a brief explanation of the Gates Foundation’s MET program. The video is too short to fully explain the program, like who watches the videos besides the recorded teacher and who is selected to provide feedback. However, good interview time was given to a teacher who has really grown – in her opinion – from participating in MET.

Older Video Explores Still Current Ideas

Cooper, E. J. (1991). Integrating thinking, reading, and writing across the curriculum. Hamilton, N.J.: Films Media Group.

I found this video in the Films on Demand database that the library where I work subscribes to. The item record showed the publication date as 2011, but that must have been when it was digitized and uploaded, because it was definitely made in 1991. Despite its age, I found it very interesting and relevant. It take the format of a panel with an audience, and in between the panelists answering questions, there are clips of teachers applying the techniques discussed in their classrooms. These clips include interviews with students who discuss how they feel about these classes compared to their classes with teachers who use more traditional methods.

Although no one ever claims these methods as adhering to any particular theory or philosophy, the methods and ideas that are discussed are clearly constructivist, and it is illuminating to see theory put into practice. The term “cognitive coaching” is used a lot, and it seems to refer to encouraging inquiry and metacognition. This video is pretty old, but the ideas hold up. 

Behaviorism, Cognitivism, Constructivism, and Social constructivism

Panneck, Brook


Hung, D. (2001). Theories of Learning and Computer-Mediated Instructional Technologies. Educational Media International, 38(4), 281-287. doi:10.1080/09523980110105114

This article describes the major schools of thought in educational theory, namely- Behaviorism, Cognitivism, Constructivism, and Social Constructivism. The paper proposes a framework for using these theories in online instruction and lists technologies for supporting the different theory implementations. I proposes that all of these theories have a place in the classroom.

Not only does it provide explanations for these theories, but it has a table that shows each of the theories, and explains the instructional design/delivery respectively. It has a table outlining, the processes of learning, type of learning, instructional strategies, and key concepts. Additionally, it has a table showing the different types of learning tools and technologies to support each of these technologies. Lastly it illustrates tools used to support active learning among groups and individualize learning.

This is a great paper for those that want to get a basic foundational understanding of what these theories are, how they can be taught and the technologies that support the teaching. It is also a great jumping off point to learn more about these theories individually. I recommend checking out the references at the bottom of the article to find more great articles that this author used.

Building a Better Teacher

Beverly Rupe

ET-Learning Styles, cognitive theory, teaching, teacher assessment

Green, E. (2014). Building a better teacher: How teaching works (and how to teach it to everyone). New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company.

This book explores the history of efforts to transform teaching from ineffective rote methods to more creative approaches. It includes a discussion of the academic research leading to teaching reform beginning in the 1980s, and uses examples from classrooms to illustrate the differences between effective and ineffective methods. Engaging students, encouraging them to talk (using “academic discourse”) and then listening to them to determine their needs are areas of focus in each of the classroom stories detailed in the book. The focus is on improving the art of teaching, which, according to the author, is a skill that can be taught. I found this book fascinating and very readable, and very pertinent to classroom teachers and TLs alike.

Cognitively Priming Students for Learning

Amy Jessica McMillan

Willis, J. (2014). Cognitively Priming Students for Learning. Retrieved November 7, 2014, from http://www.edutopia.org/blog/cognitively-priming-students-for-learning-judy-willis

Judy Willis, a neurologist turned elementary school teacher turned education professor, writes an ongoing blog for Edutopia about brain-based teaching strategies. This article explains how to grab students’ attention so their brains will work to learn more. Willis’s advice involves inviting students to make predictions about upcoming units. For example, the teacher might choose a particularly thought-provoking image or video and provide more hints and clues about it as the unit goes on. According to Willis, “When students want to know required information to create solutions to problems that interest them or to create products that they care about, the brain applies the effort to learn what is required to achieve desirable goals” (para. 8).  In other words, our brain is automatically set up to be curious and to take steps to satisfy this curiosity. We teachers have the job of making students want to know more.

I am a frequent reader of Dr. Willis’s blog. She gives practical ways that we teachers can work with students’ brains to help them learn. In this article, she reminds readers that students who have “relevant goals” are motivated to achieve them. Their brains are hardwired to work towards goals that make sense to them personally. On the other hand, students who don’t see school as relevant, do not see the value in working hard. Then, they reinforce that feeling by failing and therefore seeing even less worth in trying. Their brains are telling them that the effort would be better served elsewhere. This explanation makes a lot much sense to me because I see this all the time in the classroom. The trick is to make the students curious, to make them want to know more. Their brains will take it from there.