Going into the field of teaching brings about a plethora of challenges, from societal views of education to ensuring the needs of every child is met in the classroom. However, teachers are able to conquer these challenges because teachers should have a deep understanding of how their students learn, how their students comprehend new ideas, and also, teachers use methods to address conceptual change in learners. The importance of these ideas is not only critical for managing a successful classroom, but also vital if one is incorporating technology into education.
Some may say that student learning is the ultimate goal of teaching. The book, How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience and School, Bransford, Brown, and Cocking (2000) addresses three findings of how learners learn best. First, teachers must engage students’ initial understandings of new concepts. Second, students must have a foundation of facts, understand these fact and ideas within a framework, and also organize this knowledge in ways to be able to retrieve and apply the knowledge. Third, the authors address metacognition—the idea that students need to be aware of their own thinking and their own learning (Bransford et. al., 2000). Teachers must use these findings with their students everyday to better understand how their students learn. Engaging students’ initial ideas will allow the learner to make connections to previous knowledge gained and also assures that the student is not just remembering the information taught for an assessment but instead, has allows the learner to gain a deep understanding of the concept which he or she may eventually build on. When student learning is happening, good teachers make sure their students have the information needed and that it is organized so that students are able to later retrieve and use this knowledge. Finally, getting students to consider how they think allows for students to take control of their learning and realize where there may be gaps in their thinking. Through these findings, teachers are successful when they use their understanding of how students learn in their instruction.
Similar to knowing how students learn, teachers must also know how students comprehend new ideas. Good teachers recognize that students have beliefs and knowledge that she or he brings to a new concept and then the instructor uses this knowledge to jump-start their instruction, while still monitoring students as their conceptual understanding changes (Bransford et. al., 2000). According to the authors of How People Learn, having a clear understanding of the students’ background knowledge allows the teacher opportunities to relate new concepts to what the student already understands. Teachers are also able to challenge their students’ pre-existing knowledge with new knowledge, which allows the teacher to track their learning growth. This reminds instructors that students do not come into the classroom with no conception of the world around them; instead teachers should use these conceptions to help students comprehend new material.
While teachers take an exorbitant amount of consideration into teaching new knowledge, teachers also need to recognize and address conceptual change with students. “Schools of education must provide beginning teachers with opportunities to learn: (a) to recognize predictable preconceptions of students that make the mastery of particular subject matter challenging, (b) to draw out preconceptions that are not predictable, and (c) to work with preconceptions so that children build on them, challenge them and, when appropriate, replace them” (Bransford, Brown, and Cocking, 2000, p. 20). When students are learning new ideas, teachers must address their preconceptions, more importantly if they are misconceptions and either build from them, or exchange the misconceptions with new knowledge of the topic. Teachers then should track student progress as conceptual change takes place throughout the year.
As teachers implement technologies into their classrooms, addressing how students learn, comprehension of new ideas, and teachers addressing conceptual change with their students are still vital processes of educating youth. Technology in education does not simply mean that teachers disregard the basic understanding of student learning. While technology may be a useful tool to enhance student learning, teachers have to still use what they know about their students to ensure that learning is still occurring. The introduction of technologies does not take away from teachers knowing how their students learn, how their students comprehend new ideas, and how teachers address conceptual change.
Bransford, J., Brown, A.L. & Cocking, R. R. (Eds.), How people learn: Brain, mind, experience and school (pp. 3-27). Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press. Retrieved from http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?isbn=0309070368