Research, read and engage in critical exploration of the aspect of practice identified as the focus for professional learning in this module.
- Read the Literature Review ‘think piece’ Preview the document in Canvas
- Identify, locate and read at least three academic papers or chapters about the aspect of practice identified as the focus of professional learning. Two of these should be strong peer-reviewed journal articles that examine this issue and at least 1 of these articles reports on empirical research (i.e. is a study that collected and analysed data). Refer to the Think Piece in Canvas on ‘Finding Peer Reviewed Journal Articles’. Preview the document
- Use an organiser to take notes about your readings so that these can be shared with others (see ‘Critical reading notes Preview the document proforma’. Preview the document in Canvas).
- Identify three questions which these papers prompt you to ask, for example about the educational purpose or rationale underpinning this aspect of practice. Note these questions in your journal and explore them in discussions with your Critical Colleague.
- POST in your blog a critical exploration of key literature on your aspect of practice identified as focus of professional learning (include citations and a reference list) (750 words – do not include reference list in word count). Whilst this is a posting for formative assessment it should still follow the conventions for academic writing and referencing. Post this by Monday 17 September 2018 for formative feedback.
- Revise your first posting (Task A2) in order to put into words the specific aspect of curriculum practice that is now the focus of your professional learning (do not delete the original statement, simply add the new statement).
The purpose of this report is to set out my evolving understanding of the element of practice that I have selected as my focus for this module – pedagogy and, more specifically, pedagogical practices that support cognitivism. This report will set out the rationale for this focus and then explore some of the questions and challenges that my resultant readings have provided, namely: clarifying the meaning of learning; clarifying the meaning of cognition, and; summarizing the next steps in my own learning.
Pedagogy is defined as ‘the method and practice of teaching’ (Oxford Dictionary) and there has been much research and writing that seek to explore both the art and the science of it (Jordon et al, 2008). A helpful summary of the literature was compiled by Husband and Pearce (2012) who set out nine effective pedagogies. The second of these asserts that effective pedagogies are reliant upon, amongst other things, the knowledge and understanding of teachers. However, as is hinted at by Dunlosky et al (2013), teachers do not always know about the most effective learning techniques because they have never been told. Effective pedagogical knowledge needs to be transmitted to teachers so that they can use effective learning techniques. This challenge raises two questions: what is meant by effective learning and what knowledge and understanding should teachers possess?
“The aim of learning is to generate a persistant change in knowledge” (Kirschner et al, 2006). This definition sits well with other contributors (Dunlosky et al, 2013; Watkins et al, 2007; Mccrea, 2018) who suggest that learning is the creation of content in our long-term memory. Watkins et al offer three models of learning, asserting that learning can occur through transmission, through construction and through co-construction. They see these three models as part of a linear progression where co-construction is the best practice. The main change between the three models is that the onus on learning moves increasingly from the teacher to the student. Watkins et al model of transmission can be aligned to the concept of cognition explored by Jordon et all (2008). “Cognitivists believe that learning results from organizing and processing information effectively” (Jordon et al, 2008, p.36). Cognitivism focuses primarily on the processes involved in learning. Watkins et al argue that this is an incomplete model of learning as learning involves more than just the process – it involves making meaning, of construction of learning and, ideally, co-construction with others. However, Jordon et al suggest that the line between cognitivism and construction is not clear cut. So what does this mean for me and my enquiry? The science of learning is complex but it is important that teachers try to understand it. If we want to help our pupils learn effectively, we need to understand how they learn. It is my understanding that one cannot construct meaning without having received some information upon which to make meaning – constructivism cannot occur without cognitivism. Effective teaching practices requires knowledge about pedagogic approaches (Husband, 2010), that include knowledge about cognition because “knowing how learners process information should be helpful in designing appropriate learning experiences” (Jordon et al, 2008, p.48). It is to the topic of cognitive practices that we now turn.
Cognitivism, as explored by Jordon et al (2008) and Schweppe and Rummer (2013), is explained using the analogy of a computer. Our brain receives information (an input), digests that information (a process) and gives a result (an outcome).The academics agree that teachers need to give careful thought to the input stage. As Schweppe and Rummer (2013) assert, we learn what we attend to. This simple statement has significant implications for classroom practice – teachers need to direct pupil’s attention to the right content. Jordon et al offer practical suggestions for doing this that focus on ensuring the intended learning is interesting and engaging. Schweppe and Rummer go further in their study of models of working memory, exploring the concepts of the coherence principle (removing unnecessary information), the signaling principle (providing cues) and the redundancy effect (avoiding repeated information). These academics suggest that teachers’ pedagogical practices should include planning and preparing for attention. But, as I noted earlier, Dunlosky et al (2013) suggest that very few teachers have ever been told about this and other elements of cognitivism. If it is as important as the academics suggest, why is it not essential learning for all teachers?
It is these micro-practices that will form the basis of my ongoing enquiry and, specifically, my further participant observations. I have since reflected upon practices that I have observed that do not support attention including posing a mathematical question and inviting the pupils to set out their answer creatively (this removes some attention from the question to the layout). If we want our pupils to learning effectively, we need to design effective learning and, specifically, design experiences that focus pupil’s attention solely on the intended learning.
Dunlosky, J., Rawson, K., Marsh, E., Nathan, M. and Willingham, D. (2013), Improving Students’ Learning With Effective Learning Techniques: Promising Directions From Cognitive and Educational Psychology, Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 14(1) 4–58. DOI: 10.1177/1529100612453266.
Husbands, C., and Pearce, J. (2012), What makes great pedagogy? Nine claims from research, National College for School Leadership.
Jordan, A., Carlile, O., Stacket, A. (2008), Approaches to Learning : A Guide for Teachers, Ch.3 -4, McGraw-Hill Education.
Schweppe, J. & Rummer, R. (2013), Attention, Working Memory, and Long-Term Memory in Multimedia Learning: An Integrated Perspective Based on Process Models of Working Memory, Educational Psychology Review, 26(2), 285–306.
Watkins, C., Carnell, E. and Lodge, C. (2007), Effective Learning in Classrooms, Paul Chapman Publishing.