Quantity of Learning or Quality of Learning: Striking a Balance

I was reviewing a blog entry the other day and found myself chuckling at a statement I read. Maryellen Weimer was discussing the way we learn versus the way we teach. And it was the visual image that she gave in her summary that captured my attention.

Image by Freedigitalphotos.net|Rosemary Ratcliff
Image by Freedigitalphotos.net|Rosemary Ratcliff

In the post, she challenged to consider the type of learning that changes thinking, that modifies behavior, and sends one into a new trajectory. And then I read the imagery that caused me to pause: “Too often we give up on this really important level of learning, wandering instead in the forest of content details.”

As one who loves to backpack and be out in God’s astounding creation, this statement resonated with me. Why? Because I have lost my way in the forest before and became easily worn out and quickly lost the enjoyment of the journey.

So it is when we focus ourselves too much on the content rather than on the student. As with the forest, the joy of the journey can become tedious and mundane when we look to produce the quantity that we feel must occur in the classroom.

I am more aligned with the thoughts of Paul Ramsden, who intrigued me with this notion of education: “…learning should be seen as a qualitative change in a person’s way of seeing, experiencing, understanding, conceptualizing something in the real world – rather than as a quantitative change in the amount of knowledge someone possesses.”

The truth is, my teaching friends, that most of what we teach can readily be found on a smart phone in under a minute. So does that make the teacher obsolete? Most definitely not. Rather, in my opinion, it raises the stakes of the value of the teacher in the classroom. Why? Because in a sea of learning, our role is to help our students create bridges of authentic meaning among the myriad islands of information that are presented to them. 

We live in an age of connection and we would serve our students well if we would focus more on connecting our information to our learners such that eyes are opened, thinking is aroused, and lives are changed. Our students need more skills in how to interpret the world rather than the mere facts that exist within the world.

Community Input: What are you intentionally doing in your class that speaks more to the qualitative than the quantitative?


8 thoughts on “Quantity of Learning or Quality of Learning: Striking a Balance

  1. Helping my students think for themselves has always been my first rule. Learning happens in interactions. Some students need a teacher to facilitate their engagement with the learning materials, others not so much. When I understood how equitable education is NOT everyone getting the same (amount, task, guidance, etc.) but everyone getting what they need, the quality of teaching improved significantly.

    I still think that teachers/faculty seldom know enough about andragogy and pedagogy and especially about how learning really happens (and how we can facilitate it better).

    • Nina, thanks so much for commenting on my blog post. COMPLETELY agree with your comments. Your last paragraph is spot on and we see the fruit of it in your classrooms. Learning is such a brilliant topic to study and we end up getting so lost in “covering the content” that we miss out on being a learner-centered teacher.

      By the way, really like your blog site and checked out your book as well. Is it in Kindle form? Looks like a read I need to do this year. And congrats on getting a book out. That must be an awesome feeling – would enjoy doing that someday for my bucket list.

      So what do you do as a pedagogical consultant? Sounds like a position I would enjoy as well. Thanks again for posting!

  2. Thanks! 🙂 Yes, the book is also available as Kindle. Getting it done was great, but finding time for finishing the teachers’ “workbook” or the ideas/materials used in training would be even better. I am so lucky to have a great editor and an awesome publisher.

    I help teachers to find personal ways to facilitate their students’ learning, and schools to implement the learning-centered practices. Keeps me busy with the full-time faculty job and doctoral studies… 😀

    • That is great – what an awesome thing to be able to help teachers improve their craft. So is this a side responsibility at your institution from being a faculty member? Where do you teach?

      And a found your text for Kindle. Looks like a very helpful read, Thanks Nina.

  3. Thanks for your kind words!

    Helping is not a responsibility, I do it as an entrepreneur. For my faculty job I mentor grad students at Western Governors University and am located in WA, U.S. – very pretty area! Fortunately today we have so many ways to connect over the internet, that helping teachers and exporting the Finnish know-how is doable even without leaving home (even though I still do love to travel).

  4. teachers do somtimes tend to focus their teaching on details and forgat what is really importiant, and we walk around and get lost in a forest insteaed of focusing on what is really importiant. Students need realistic applicable teachings that will help them in the real world rather than just mundain facts

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