Ten Principles of Learning

Going through the ten learning principles was definitely an interesting exercise, although I do see how it is going to take far more practice and reiteration of each of these principles in order to integrate them into my teaching interactions. I’ve chosen to go over each principle one by one here, simply because they are independent in what I learnt from them.

  1. Connectedness: This is something that was mentioned in the previous readings and had stuck with me. It’s something that seemed to make so much sense, in a way that it felt like I was being reminded of something I knew even though it was an entirely new concept to me. I TA the intro to CS class, and this is particular helpful for this first class since it allows me to be more aware that the students, in many cases, don’t have previous CS knowledge to tie new knowledge to, and therefore connections need to made through analogies of real life or a different field which the student is more likely to be familiar with.
  2. Content/Skill balance: I found this slightly more difficult to apply to the context of a UTA for CS. Finding the distinction between what the content is versus what the skills required are is going to be something for me to work on. I can see places where this applies in ACT prep courses, where students need to learn to read carefully, for example, before working on building passage maps for reading sections. I have to think further on the equivalent for Comp 11.
  3. Shared responsibility: This section is encouraging for me as learner and a TA. Fortunately I have found that most students, in COMP11 at least, are quite involved in their own learning and approach TAs with a will to understand something they have already been working on. This section helped me recognize how helpful their attitude is here. I’m likely to be more thoughtful about my own engagement in my learning at school. I have a set of econ problems to go through tonight, and reading that slide again helped my feeling of responsibility toward doing them thoroughly.
  4. Active search for meaning: This is another point that stuck with me from the previous readings. I see how I need to work on introducing a method through which the learner can have a role in guiding their learning. This is one of those things that is easier conceived than put into practice. In the past I have been careful about active learning with students who are younger than me, but I need to remind myself that such a learning method is useful irrespective of age.
  5. Collaboration: This section doesn’t quite apply to office hours since they tend to be one on one. It does play a role in labs. Pair programming (writing code in teams of two) has been a super learning experience for me recently, in the CS class I’m currently taking. And I see how useful it could be for students in lab. One way I could encourage more collaboration would be to engage other students to explain concepts when those are being discussed at the beginning of lab, rather than explain things myself on the whiteboard.
  6. Importance of the learning climate: As a lab assistant last semester, the lead TA for my lab really emphasized having a positive learning environment for the lab, and that is something I am trying to keep up in leading a lab this year. Zach, the lab leader last year, insisted on learning all the students names (24) in the first lab itself and greeting every student as they entered and left. I think little things like these really do contribute to feeling comfortable and open to learning, as well as open to making mistakes and asking for help when needed.
  7. Feedback: The COMP11 course itself is rather well structured in terms of practice and feedback on assignments. I’m finding it hard to think of where to provide more feedback or practice to students. Maybe coming up with a couple quick problems for a student to go through after we work through a concept in office hours would be a good way to ensure they have learned the concepts and would provide me with an opportunity to give feedback on their work.
  8. Independence and interdependence: The emphasis on both, rather than just on independence or on team-work is a nice distinction that implies a good balance between relying on individual abilities and working with others. Although I am stumped on how to work toward an environment that promotes these in a healthy manner. Encouraging the use of google and peers as a resource for problem-solving will likely help.
  9. Large range of interests and abilities are accommodated for in learning program: Given that computer science is a field where the minority groups tend to be at a particular disadvantage I see the importance of having a learning environment that caters to students of all backgrounds and interests. Here being aware of the fact that a lot of students taking COMP11 are not going to be CS majors or do not have a background in CS is important to keep in mind. Again I’m finding it challenging to think of specific ways to work on this through TAing.
  10. Self-monitoring: I see this as something I definitely need to work on. I tend to go through courses without much reflection about my studying methods or the effort I put into learning. I seem to weigh my learning based on my grade, which in many cases may not be entirely accurate. This is something to encourage through OH or labs, but by definition something that the students should engage in independently by the way I understand it.

I imagine we will come back to and explore at least some of these principles in more detail through the rest of this course, which I look forward to since I do see the need to spend more time on working at implementing the principles described. (This will also have to be personal effort at applying these on my own.)

Learning Styles

The document about VARK learning styles having little to no evidence to back the theory that people learn better when teaching is adapted to their specific learning style was an interesting realization. Although I have never really used these styles, I have often come across them and assumed them to be an intelligent teaching method. One of the bigger realizations here was how much actual research and scientific process there is behind teaching and teaching methods. It is was quite comforting to read and know that there is significant research in the field and that one can adapt teaching based on scientifically proven concepts. Although I was aware of such research I only now realized the ease of application of such research into day to day teaching methods. And that these things can be applied to something as simple as explaining a concept during office hours.

The article about active learning definitely resonated with me as I could relate to the concept of finding learning a lot easier through engaging, active classes rather than just lectures. It also helped me reflect on the way I have often chosen to teach concepts and reminded me that I need to work on having the student(s) work rather than giving explanations. Although explaining concepts verbally and/or with diagrams has worked for me in the past, I can see how adapting this process to involve the student in drawing diagrams and building concepts would be helpful in solidifying knowledge from lectures.

The idea of building on concepts that one is already familiar with is something quite new for me. I hadn’t really thought about the importance of making connections to previously learned concepts in order to learn new ones. In previous teacher-training I have often been told how important examples and metaphors can be in helping a student learn. The explanation for this, however, was rarely mentioned. So it was interesting to understand the reasoning behind the emphasis on connections to previous knowledge. The velcro-example from class today was particular helpful, while also applying the principle itself.