My understanding of the learning process comes from my research on how the brain learns, my many years as both a teacher and a learner, and my life experiences. Ultimately, my goal as a teacher is to help my students learn to understand the world around them, achieve their academic goals, and to feel confident in themselves and their abilities.
Some of my core beliefs about how we learn best …
Learning requires relationships
We cannot learn effectively if we have no relationship with the material, with our classmates or with the teacher. We are emotional beings created for relationship with others. We also need a relationship with the material and a reason to learn and work towards something which we feel is important. If we feel supported by those who share our journey, our motivation is increased. In the short term, some students may be compelled by the extrinsic motivation of letter grades, but in the long term, intrinsic motivation is a far more powerful and effective motivator.
Learning requires scaffolding
Knowledge builds upon knowledge and skill build upon skill. Too often students fail because they are asked to perform a task or learn a concept for which there is no previous knowledge. This is like asking a painter to paint the siding on the top of a 3 story building while standing on a kitchen chair. Good teaching makes connections from a student’s present knowledge base and life experiences to the target concepts and skills.
Learning requires creativity, humor and even some fun
Humans are creative and imaginative beings who generally learn much better when there is an opportunity to have a little fun and a few laughs. Good feelings help our brains remember better, while stress and boredom cause our brains to shut down.
Learning requires structure and order
Clear expectations and clear guidelines allow students to take baby steps towards a knowable goal. When students understand the expectations, the grading criteria, and how to complete an assignment, a paper, or a project, they feel more confident and secure as a learner. My goal as a teacher is to provide this information so my students are confident and ready to learn.
Learning requires understanding each student
It is difficult to “sell a product” if we don’t know who are customer is. Each individual brings a unique personality and set of experiences and beliefs into the classroom. The better I know my students, the better I can find creative and effective ways to help them learn the material. Small class sizes are the best for understanding and meeting the needs of individual students.
Learning requires good coaching by family and teachers
A good coach is someone who compels us to do our best, to try hard when we feel like quitting and to pick ourselves up when we fall down. Enthusiasm and interest go a long way towards motivating a student to master a difficult task and a good coach communicates this to his/her students.
Learning requires a team working together
Parents, teachers, and significant adults need to work together with the student to communicate common goals and common expectations. It is pretty difficult to motivate someone who doesn’t share our vision for a project. Honest communication between these stakeholders benefits everyone.