The one doing the thinking is the one doing the learning

It is common sense to say that the one doing the thinking is the one doing the learning.  We know that the best way to learn is to learn by doing, and the least effective way to learn is to ‘take’ the content passively, such as via a lecture.  We know this as teachers, yet many of us still sometimes resort to teaching in a didactic, lecture-style way.

Despite my best efforts to take a student-centred approach to teaching, I found myself planning for some pretty boring teaching this week.  Upon reflection, I was able to make some small changes that resulted in students doing the heavy lifting in terms of thinking.  Set out below are three examples of how I made my lesson plans more student-centred this week.

My original plan Revised, student-centred approach
After reviewing brief overview of Favelas, students brainstorm the issues facing Favela residents (in pairs).  Teacher creates a concept map on the board, and asks students to contribute as many issues as possible. Students investigate Favelas and issues facing residents for homework the night before, coming to class already equipped with this knowledge.

Students work in small groups (2-4) to generate their own concept map.  They would then send one representative roaming to other groups to compare issues and add any if necessary.

As part of revision, teacher presents the 10 Catholic Social Teachings to students via Powerpoint, with teacher-led explanations for each.  Students make notes as teacher is speaking. Students work individually to generate a list of the CSTs and accompanying brief explanation for each (from memory).  Students then pair to compare their responses, then in small groups.  By the small group phase, there should be some consensus about the 10 principles, as well as a solid explanation.  Any points of contention should be noted.  Students will then make use of their sources (text, notes, web) to check their work.  Teacher circulates to conference with each group periodically to clarify any major issues and prompt students with carefully designed questions.
Teacher gives students a source sheet with all the information about a particular social group in Medieval Europe.  They use this information to complete a role play.  Teacher then takes students through the Feudal Pyramid on the board, with students completing their own graphic organiser as they go. Teacher allocates roles and students then individually research their role, using the information to complete a role play.  Teacher then debriefs with students via discussion.  Students use the information and role play to generate their own original representation of the Feudal System.  Students conference with three other students, sharing their work, asking questions, clarifying and giving each other feedback.  Teacher circulates to check student work and clarify  points where necessary.

I agree that sometimes didactic teaching has its place, in small chunks, for very specific purposes.  I think in my case, I planned like this out of habit rather than necessity, hence the reflections and amendments to my lesson plans.

AISTL Professional Standards: 1.2, 2.1, 2.2, 3.2, 3.3, 3.6, 6.1, 6.2


One thought on “The one doing the thinking is the one doing the learning

  1. Dear Penny, Thanks for the great post – this an excellent example of how a change in approach by the teacher can lead to improvements in student thinking and therefore student learning. It is great to have you back in the classroom!



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