Innovation in Instruction. The 300wayLearn Method #28 #cong17

By John Davitt.

John David #28  innovation in instruction

Photo by Jamie Templeton

How do you do your learning? - An enquiry for to the classroom, the boardroom and beyond.  If the learning lies mainly in the doing (and research into active learning suggest that it does ) then how is the doing done? What is the main form of doing during learning in the classroom and the workplace?”

If I were honest about my early years as a teacher the answer was …sit there, listen to me – watch this, now write about. There was once a children’s TV Show in the UK called “Watch with Mother” (black & white/ pre the Bosco enlightenment) it got me thinking much training and teaching could still be summed up by the title  “Watch with Tutor”

The same movie plays out repeatedly at the company training event, in the meeting room and on the shop floor. “Why don’t you know, I’ve shown you and told you” – or even more tellingly, “I would help you learn this more powerfully in another way – but there isn’t time to let you leave your seat or take your eyes from the presentation”

Of course the sad fact is that the opposite is true – when the learning is new and difficult individuals walk many different paths to understanding and to walk sometimes you have to leave your seat.

For much new and difficult learning that type of progression in instruction (listen>watch>write>do) is a Bermuda triangle.  It is a place from which little learning emerges.

Activity X 300

This led me on a journey to explore the many ways of doing, of exploring what you do and don’t know, of demonstrating understanding.  Wherever possible I looked to the use of activity other than writing or passive listening – searching out areas where the learner might have greater mastery- such as talking, acting or drawing. I ended up with a list of 300 ways to do – and built a generator to provide them for the classroom and the workplace use.

The aim behind my process was to up the range (and difficulty) of the learning challenge and to move activity from afterthought to artform – to provide some variety and choice in the nature and range of learning activities. Exploring the range of ways you might learn a new subject or demonstrate your understanding should be something akin to adapting a menu and cooking a meal – what combination might work best / what alternatives exist? As with slow food  – a slow-learning approach leaves space from the initial halting nature of group work and provides time for repetition.

A learning choreography tool

Once we leave the certainty of the chair and the screen however,  things can lose direction – this led me to explore how we might provide a choreography that gave an overview of the task at outset but also served as an ongoing visual aid memoire whilst the activity was underway. For this purpose we built the Learning Score – a tool to help describe and choreograph a meeting or a learning event rather like a musical score describes music over time.  If displayed on a larger screen or projector the Learning Score shows a moving timeline of where the group should be in their learning challenge and how long remains.

Groups as turbocharged learning resources

The final part of the jigsaw for classroom use of the method was to build in group work and repetition.

It is easy to think groups are simple collections of individuals but they are in fact turbocharged learning resources – if they are tutored and allowed to be so. Groups can manage (and require) more dramatic learning challenges than “write about it.” “Tell the story of the heart as a mini opera” – is a delight to a group (once they get past the initial shock – the early stall – be careful not to intervene) but such a challenge would often lead to failure for an individual.

“Repetition is the mother of memory”

“You don’t understand anything until you learn it more than one way” said Marvin Minsky  and so the final ingredient in the method is repetition. Once you have shown “peristalsis as a dance” now do it as a “postage stamp illustration”.

Finally the 300wayLearn Method is a tool to reinvigorate lessons, training events and seminars that have maybe lost their way or become a little stale, it is not necessarily  intended for use all the time but maybe even for just  once in a while – a way to change one part of the habit of inertia and in changing just one thing help to change it all.

300wayLearn in a nutshell

• a variety of active learning opportunities to blend

• a choreography for activity and keeping on time

• a priority for group over individual learning

• the joy of repetition to lock in the learning

CongRegation © Eoin Kennedy 2017 eoin at congregation dot ie