Learning to Teach or Teaching to Learn?
When we think of teaching, we often think of teachers or instructors standing at the front of a classroom full of students lecturing on the subject they have expertise in. This teacher-centered model of teaching at instead of imparting knowledge through explaining has been largely discounted within higher education if not in secondary education as well. The notion that rote memorization and regurgitation of content leads to effective learning does not hold water beyond standardized testing, in which case it is simply test prepping and not true learning.
What many educators know and have been incorporating into their courses and lessons is that there are multiple learning styles and great variation among learners in terms of how they learn best. Somewhere in the ever-changing world of pedagogical theory (i.e. how to teach and learn), the common practice of learning by doing has fallen to the wayside and has largely been excluded from the conversation in the American model – just look at the increased focus on attending college instead of vocational training!
Sure, the popularity of focusing on STEM (Science-Technology-Engineering-Math) education has gained traction in terms of meeting students’ expectations of being trained for future jobs and careers, but it is somewhat of a strawman argument to claim that is the only needed correction to the American education system – if the delivery of the course material follows the antiquated lecture model, focusing on particular subjects alone will not make a large impact on improving education.
Most learning we experience through doing and having someone explain the concept, practice, or skill to us. How many of us sought out someone who had more knowledge/skill/expertise in a particular subject or field in order to learn from them? Did you learn how to change a tire by listening to a lecture about it, or did you go to YouTube and watch a video on it? Maybe you learned from a parent or sibling or friend. How about organic chemistry, algebra, or Spanish? Did you just stare at a textbook and suddenly understand the often obtuse explanations for what you were trying to learn, or did you google it, seek out a tutor, or ask a classmate?
At CORE Languages, we have committed to an approach to language learning that focuses on explanations and guided learning, and less on lectures or a teacher-centered classroom. Some have referred to this idea as “flipping the classroom,” in which students drive the learning and education process based on their needs and interests.
While it is not realistic to have the entire structure of a course be determined by the students – we instructors still have to help guide the process so that there is cohesion and a sense of direction – the role of the instructor in a course is to be a mentor who can explain difficult material in an understandable and coherent way.
CORE Languages’ Premier Instructors are supported through our Learning Management System (LMS), CORECONNECT, which enables them devote more class time to working through the content and let the activities (grammar explanations, vocabulary, videos, etc.) serve as points of reference and the basis for the lessons to be practiced together in class.
In this way, the CORE Clients are also supported: as students, they have the opportunity to choose which activities they would like to do and not be forced to use one particular perspective on a topic, and it allows for one to go through multiple lessons on the same topic. After all, most of us do not simply absorb material the first time we encounter it; rather, we learn through repetition – which is not to be confused with rote memorization!