Cumberland Times-News

Opinion

October 5, 2013

Students often display different learning levels

Might there be a better way of understanding students’ difficulties in learning? Some ideas that have been widely explored include learning styles, multiple intelligences and bloom’s taxonomy.

In my opinion, these outlooks have not been successful in devising widespread strategies to make our students better learners. Now there is much talk about large scale use of external internet courses to revolutionize college learning (and to put most colleges out of business).

Many advocates of these proposals have not recently taught classes at the collegiate or secondary levels. Most of these proponents have an idealized notion of students, as they are today. They go through these courses and delight in the exercises; they assume that today’s students will have the same experience.

   Here is my take on learning, perhaps a simpler approach but one that today’s teachers might find interesting.

There are three levels of learners: shallow, middle and deep. Of course, these levels are part of a continuum where many students might fall between these categories. I also think that the levels will change for individual students depending on the subject matter.

Shallow learners rely heavily on memorization and tend to be very literal. It is much easier for them to memorize principles, laws and mathematical relations than actually understand them and be able to provide examples from their own experience.

For shallow learners to answer questions in their own words is a real challenge. They would rather look in the text or in their notes. By quoting this material word for word in their answers, they conceal their lack of understanding and feel safe.

Shallow learners look for reasons to skip classes. Their kind of learning is superficial and disappears a few weeks after the course is over. When the shallow learners begin a course that is built on the foundation of an earlier course, they don’t recall the key ideas that they had struggled with in the previous course.

   Middle learners benefit from work outside of class, such as homework and projects. They can see the connection between different treatments of the same material (such as the textbook, notes and class discussion).

Middle learners’ understanding is based on what the instructor does in class, their own reading and reflection afterwards. After going through examples in class or in the textbook, they can apply the key principles of a course.

Middle learners can appreciate the difference between teaching that encourages interaction and teaching that focuses on memorization. Middle learners enjoy experiences outside of class, such as conversing with the instructor and taking field trips.    

Deep learners are rare in most classes. They see the benefit of classes but prefer to learn beyond what is expected by reading and working through other materials. Deep learners know that what they get out of a course depends more on their own efforts, rather than what the instructor can deliver.

To a deep learner, it’s not the grade but what they can achieve on their own. Deep learners are not that concerned about what other students think of them. They often ask unusual questions in class that the instructor finds difficult to answer during class (without losing the attention of most students).

   My next column will follow up on these levels of learning and what could be done to move the shallow learners towards middle learning. I invite any readers, teachers or students to comment or critique my ideas through email rdoyle@frostburg.edu.

SKY SIGHTS AHEAD: On Sept. 25, the moon swung from the morning to the evening side of the sun. (Each day, the moon moves about 13 degrees eastward among the stars while the sun creeps about 1 degree eastward.)

Tomorrow the crescent moon and brilliant Venus (to left of the moon) will be easily seen in the 7:30 p. m. dusk low in the west.

On Oct. 11, the moon will appear half full (like a tilted letter D) in the southwestern evening sky. Binoculars held steadily will reveal some of the moon’s larger craters along the moon’s straight edge (where the sun there is rising).

Bob Doyle invites any readers comments and questions. E-mail him at rdoyle@frostburg.edu . He is available as a speaker on his column topics.

1
Text Only
Opinion
  • It shouldn’t take a study to figure out what city needs

    Another study on what to do with Cumberland? (“City’s economic consultants unveil good, bad at study update,” June 26 Times-News, Page 1A)

    July 25, 2014

  • C-minus grade C-minus grade

    If a survey conducted by Thumbtack.com and the Kaufman Foundation is an accurate portrayal, Maryland has a long way to go to become a business-friendly state.

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • It might not be a problem, but a possibility

    God certainly orchestrates circumstances that cause us to marvel. The recent flood In Cresaptown that Calvary Baptist Church/School endured is proving to be yet another miracle birthed out of devastation.

    July 24, 2014

  • Look to the Jubilee solution to resolve our economic woes

    Following the Lehman banking debacle of 2008, the government sponsored bailout of the banking sector to boost the economy created an illusion of recovery.

    July 24, 2014

  • Common Core curriculum is bad news for West Virginians

    If something is not done soon, the vast majority of American K-12 school children will be taught using dubious, federally backed national education “standards” that have come under fire from across the political spectrum.

    July 24, 2014

  • Please return valuable items taken from woman’s parked van

    On July 8 at 2:33 p.m. my 16-year-old granddaughter Caitlyn Cook and I arrived at Children’s Medical Group for a 3 p.m. appointment.

    July 23, 2014

  • Preposterous Preposterous

    File this one under the We Thought We’d Heard Everything category: A man who attempted the armed robbery of a pizza shop is now suing the pizzeria and the employees who tackled him and wrestled his gun away during the holdup.

    July 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Legion honor guard available to honor veterans at their funerals

    We in the honor guard of Fort Cumberland Post 13, American Legion, performed 196 veterans service in 2013.

    July 22, 2014

  • No secrets No secrets

    The idea of fracturing for natural gas makes many people anxious about potential harmful effects. For that reason alone, it is incumbent on Maryland government to require full disclosure of chemicals used in the process.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • Remember, we’re not immune to extinction

    I’d like to pose a theoretical scenario to Cal Thomas.

    If a medical specialist said, “Cal, you’ve got a serious physical problem. Do nothing and you’ll die soon. Follow my prescription, which involves certain life-style changes, and there’s a good probability you’ll live, even if your life may be a bit more constrained than now.”

    July 21, 2014