How Not To Make Learning A Boring Experience

I knew that my attention span was a problem. I always had difficulty when a speaker spoke without involving the audience unless of course he was a very gifted speaker. But then such gifted speakers are a rare breed.

Later on I realised that I was not alone; others also had difficulty in concentrating when they were passive listeners. People usually find it difficult to sit at one place for over 90 minutes and also concentrate on the subject.

These thoughts came to my mind as I read the latest post on BPS Research Digest. [I concluded that I was not much at fault but the way training was delivered! I always suspected that to be the case!!] 

The research there might lead to more interactive learning in the universities, and perhaps at the secondary school level. The post says ‘In a recent experience the researchers have found that A more interactive, discussion- and quiz-based style of university teaching brings dramatic benefits to science learning, according to a new study. The interactive approach takes its inspiration from psychologist Anders Ericsson's theory of "deliberate practice", a highly motivated and thorough form of learning. [Link]
We have read about the Knowles Andragogy. Malcolm Knowles was taught to think ‘systematically’ by his mother, a learning that got him many accolades. Here is an incident that led to the development of Knowles Andragogy.

One experience that deeply influenced his practice of adult education was provided by a retired New England corporation executive. In response to several potential participants who wanted to know more about the stars, Knowles had contacted a leading astronomer at Harvard who recommended his graduate assistant to teach the class. A dozen registrants appeared, but the lecture format did not work well. Interest waned. Numbers dwindled from class to class until Knowles had to cancel the program, although he knew the attenders were still interested in learning about the stars.

He began looking for someone who knew astronomy without being "locked into an academic teaching stance." Upon contacting an association of amateur astronomers in the Boston area, one of its members, a retired executive, agreed to teach the class.

The first of these night classes started with a trek to the roof of the YMCA building and a question. Participants were asked to look at the sky and to tell the instructor what they saw that aroused their curiosity. The amateur astronomer jotted down a series of items that were of interest to the group. On returning to the classroom, he used this "curriculum" in a relaxed, straightforward way, avoiding the didacticism that had initially alienated class members from a subject in which they had a deep interest. At the end of the session, he invited them to his home for the next class where they could view the stars from the comfort of his private observatory. By the second meeting the group membership had mushroomed from a dozen into eighteen.

Knowles had found the model of an effective teacher for his institution and for his own developing image of what an adult educator and adult education ought to be. Such experiences with the YMCA taught him that instructors had to care about learners' interests rather than what they believed ought to interest learners.[Link]


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