Before I talk about the reading, How People Learn chapter 1&2, I want to introduce myself. My name is Jungwon. I came from South Korea and studied political science, especially international political economy and East Asian politics before I entered MSI program. Currently, my specialization is LIS and I am working at Clark library as reference assistant. And I want to be a reference/instruction librarian of academic library in the future. Before I enter MSI program, I had some teaching experiences, for example I taught East Asian politics and Korean language to undergraduates. So, I can claim that I have been thinking about how to teach and observing how student learn. Yet, this book provides very insightful information about people’s behavior related learning and teaching.
For example, while I taught a political science class to undergraduates in U.S., we discussed about the characteristics of two major political systems, presidential political system and parliamentary political system respectively. I wanted to create a class-debate about pros and cons of two different political systems, but the trial was failed because most students claimed that presidential political system was superior to parliamentary political system. period. At that time, I was in panic I don’t understand my students’ behavior because that subject was one of popular subjects of political science in graduate level. I had so much fun with my colleagues discussing about the subject. What happened? My pupils were stupid? No!!!! My students might have little knowledge about politics before they enrolled the class, but they were hard-worker and were eager to learn new theories and facts. And that kind of problem (?) or disconnection between students and me never occurred in other class debates except this case. Then, why? My students lived in excellent and successful U.S. presidential political system, so they could not imagine that some cons of presidential systems can deteriorate other countries’ democratization, for example Latin America countries.
In general, instructors prepare a class assuming that students have no knowledge about the subject. Yes, they may have little knowledge about the subject, but author of How People Learn make me remind that students may have preexisting perception and understanding before they enter the classroom. So, “instructors pay attention to knowledge, skills, and attitudes that learners bring into classroom.” (Bransford, Brown, and Cocking, 2003,p.23) In next step, focusing on metacognitive strategies that “refer to people’s abilities to predict their performance on various tasks and to monitor their current levels of mastery and understanding” is really important for diminishing the “mile wide, inch deep” problem. In my case, I overcame the failure of class discussion by comparing U.S. and Netherlands which had successful parliamentary system and by explaining why they need to adapt different system. Yet if I could apply more metacognitive method to my teaching strategy, my student could have enjoyed class debate rather than listened my lengthy lecture.
Even though I am fascinated by authors’ main ideas, their arguments and evidences are insufficient to support their ideas. First, even though they claim that teaching strategy of children’s classroom and adult’s class can be same, it may not be same in real. Teachers may need to prepare different strategies for adults not because adults learning is not learner centered, knowledge centered, assessment centered, and community centered, but because the adults in same class may have significantly different knowledge, skills, and attitudes based on their previous experiences. Second, I am really confused about authors’ classification and definition. Who is “children”? and Who is “adults”? Will Undergraduates be children or adults? What is meaning of “professional development program”? And what are definitions of “novices” and “experts”? Yes, authors provide definition of experts, but it is too vague to identify the characteristics of experts. And it is quite subjective. (And the definition of key concepts need to be addressed before they build arguments. As a result, I wondered the meaning of ‘novice’ and ‘expert’ until I read the last section of chapter 2! ) Finally, related to second, authors make strong claims what’s the difference between novices and experts based on some empirical evidences, yet they do not mention about how they select novice and expert, how many people attend the test and what on condition the test occurred. If they build their argument based on couple of case studies, then their arguments can be overestimated then we expect.