I've been thinking about education lately. I've been frustrated about how I can't reproduce the wonders that some modern teachers are able to do.
I am frustrated because I have to teach things to people in increasing amounts. There are the guides I should create and hone for my programming language. Then there are the clients who should know certain things when they use my software.
Last week I spent some time to study the subject and write this post. I read the learning theory from wikipedia as it felt relevant, as a starting point.
How do people learn things? Many people have asked that question before me.
People are capable of learning simply when the information in recited to them, given that they have motivation to do so.
How often are you sufficiently interested about something that you search information to learn it? That probably doesn't happen often especially without external events leading to it.
But it is the basics. You have to present the information in some way before anyone can learn it.
I know by experience that it is possible to fail this form of teaching. If you forget an important fact or do not emphasize the correct things, people reading your texts may end up to false conclusions about the subject. Dihydrogen monoxide hoax provided a clear example that lies aren't needed for misleading people.
Traditional forms of education confuse the teaching and qualification together.
Traditional education is teaching by rote learning, memorization, discipline and coercion. It requires the school to be the qualifying races for the work life and the place where to deposit the kids when you can be certain they no longer request breastfeeding.
Traditional european education is just 21st century slavery, slowly being made obsolete by robotic workforce. Masqueraded as "education".
Now that I have thrown the obligatory tantrums off my heart, I can concentrate on what I was studying. Don't take it seriously. I am aware about the merits there are in the modern school system. For example, that it's better than nothing and it's affordable.
It appears that many people have understood how to teach people and have honed their skills. All the way down to the basics.
In Finland they talk about the "Varga-Neményi" method. Europeans and Americans seem to talk about "Hungarian approach". Their focus is in the teaching of mathematics to children.
By reading from the various sources I've left with the impression that Hungarian method of teaching provides lot of what you need to consider when teaching:
- You should understand where the learner starts and probe what does he know before your lessons.
- People may learn better if you start from mundane subjects before you present the abstract forms to them.
- Mathematical notation or symbols are a language. It is may be better to be taught after the concepts are understood. Arbitrary symbols on a whiteboard aren't a good starting point or an exciting point of focus.
- Memorization of the facts and the deep understanding of the subject are two very different things.
- Motivation to explore the subject doesn't simply remain if you just present all the facts without giving the student anything to play with.
- The students learn from experiences better than recitations.
- Your teaching should move the people to learn themselves. You shouldn't be the upper authority who tells everything from the higher elevation.
- There are multiple ways to learn the subject and multiple good answers to most questions.
Especially the last point is important because you won't be there teaching forever. Eventually some of your students have to surpass you.
I can tell you from the experience that it really messes up with you when you've been taught to have authorities and one day you no longer find people that know what you're supposed to learn.
The hard part about acquiring knowledge on Hungarian method is that they prefer Hungarian method for teaching you how to teach. The descriptions, teaching materials and such are pretty abstract and hard to approach. That I don't find anything online about it all is a bit of a red flag to me.
But if you wonder about this, it's not important whether the Hungarian method exists. It is important whether there are repeatable ways to teach that are better than plain presentation of what you know.
Theory of multiple intelligences
The theory of multiple intelligences is likely a false because the studies on human intelligence propose that cognitive abilities cross the boundaries that multiple intelligences present. Even if the knowledge is often specific, the intelligence appears to be generic:
Without any progression or variation people tend to become bored. Enough repetition or even repeating the same theme is enough. Therefore it would be great if you can provide multiple ways to learn the subjects.
Sometimes it helps if you have a taxonomy for variety of methods or approaches you have, or a palette. The theory of multiple intelligences seem to suffice as such.
- Visual / spatial
- Logic / Reason-based
- Kinematic, motoric
- Self-reflective / intrapersonal
Although such a taxonomy is completely arbitrary, it may help in producing teaching material that is diverse.
I am not sure if boredom during learning should be accounted for, or whether this kind of diversity can do it. But I like the idea and will try it.
When things are studied, especially when it's something as difficult as neuroscience, we tend to get statistics that are not easy to interpret.
For example. Most teachers tend to believe that individuals have different learning styles. I've heard about do-ers, watchers and listeners before. I was a bit surprised when I read that there is no evidence that supports this widely spread belief about learning styles.
For now neuroscience doesn't seem to produce much of things that'd be useful when applied to teaching. I have to look back into it after few decades of progress.
Costs of teaching
It's not something that I read along, but I know that one thing that bounds what you can do is the cost of doing it. The Hungarian method appears to suffer from that problem. It's cheaper to do the same thing as everyone else. Also the traditional school success has a traditional way to measure it, so the gains aren't obvious to reason the additional costs.
I am not a teacher, so I have limited time and interest to teaching people. It is important to account for during writing the material.
Also it's not just the cost of what it takes to create the learning material and teach. Less people are reading through all of the content if there's lot of it. It even gets to the point that less people are reading your long sentences compared to your long sentences.