When teaching my students, I do incorporate and adapt some existing learning theories. I found it helpful in such that it helps me to understand how students could learn in better way, as has been done in the past. Nevertheless, I find that these theories exist as a lens that help us lecturers to understand how student think and learn. It is me who needs to craft it in such that it could best fit the way I teach, the situation I am in (my class, labs etc.), the students I teach, and the subject I am teaching.
Below are the explanations on how I incorporate teaching and learning theories to my teaching practices.
- Students’ learning is a process of active construction
When I teach my students, I try to relate to the experience they have already know in the past (probably through previous courses, their own experiences etc.). I know that each student will have their own interpretations and understanding due to the fact that they encounter different experiences and learning previously. To me, that’s definitely fine. As long as they learn and what they construct is a correct understanding, that’s the main objective of my delivery.
At the same time, I want them to share these various understanding with everyone. I will ask them to share their understanding with examples. Usually, students will be given 3 – 5 minutes to share how they could relate certain topic to their previous work experiences, or some stories they may have seen. These activities are usually conducted in pairs.
- Students’ prior knowledge determines what they will learn in my class
I take the position where my students attend my lectures not in a blank state of mind. They might already know the topic, something related to the topic or other things that may be related. Thus, I will ask questions, or ask them to write the experiences that relates to the topic being discussed. I will also let students relates the topic being discussed to real world cases and examples. With this way, I found that students learn better and remember the topic well. Furthermore, what I found good is that my students do not only memorize the key principles but understood how the concept being taught in great depth.
- Putting small concepts into a big picture, so students could see the whole picture
When there are many principles or concepts that needs to be grabbed in a topic, I take the responsibility to put it into a whole big picture or a ‘helicopter view’. This is important as I am well verse with the topic and students don’t. I could see the whole picture and put them together in a big piece. Therefore, in most of my lectures, I will start the topic by bringing the big picture that contains small concepts. Then, I will describe the importance of learning this big concept including the way it could be applied.
During next lessons, I will continue to break the teaching into pieces by explaining the small concepts. In many occasions, I give each small concept to small groups of students. Each group will get different concepts and they need to understand it well. At the end of the lesson, each group needs to share their understanding on the concept given. With this way, the whole class are able to learn small principles from peers. I will then, summarize the topic by gluing back each small concept into a bigger framework or model or theory.
- Students learning is a social phenomenon
I learnt that students learn better through communication, conversation, discussion and sharing. These social activities make them more interested in learning and enjoy the process. Therefore, I will often add these social activities in class. If it is just a one-way communication where I teach in front of the class and conduct demonstration, students often find it mundane and dry. However, social activities are inserted during certain times, they started to enjoy the process and willing to take part. Without them realizing it, they gained knowledge from peers and those activities that they took part. Through these activities, they also understand the subject being discuss very well and it sticks in their mind. During exams, those who take part could answer better with clearer explanation and examples.
Picture taken during convocation dinner (left) and robing ceremony (right) with proud students of mine