Thursday, December 15, 2011

Overcoming the oldest problem in pedagogy

A short article by Lee Shulman does an excellent job capturing both the challenges and the goals of educating our students. Shulman, who has been at the forefront of the movement for a scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL), focuses in on "the oldest problem of pedagogy":
What is the oldest problem of pedagogy? The appearance of learning, or illusory understanding, that is, the problem of people who appear to know something that they really don't know.
We often hear that we need to "engage" our students, and now we know why--so our students can overcome the problem of illusory understanding.
The only way we as teachers know whether our students understand something is by getting them to write or talk about it. As long as it remains inside their heads, we cannot teach, and in fact they don't know whether they understand it either. Deborah Meier (1995) once put it very well, in explaining why pedagogy was both straightforward and dauntingly difficult. She observed that, when properly understood, teaching is mainly listening, whereas learning is mainly talking.
So, students need plenty of opportunities to write and to talk, to make the "internal external, to render it what [Shulman has] called community property."

You can find resources at the CFD Web site to help you incorporate these opportunities into your courses. Specifically, click on the questions "What are my options for incorporating active learning into a course?" and "How do I incorporate collaborative, or peer to peer learning, in my course?" and you will be directed to additional resources. And if you know of online resources that are not referenced in the CFD Web site but should be, please let the staff know.

Citation: Shulman, Lee S. (2000). Teacher development: Roles of domain expertise and pedagogical knowledge. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology 21(1): 129-135.