Friday, September 13, 2013

Learning, Knowing and the Myth of Transmission

Playing Telephone
Image courtesy of Ambro, 2012 /
As the fall term kicks off, both of my classes are considering what it means to learn, to know and to teach. At Marlboro each student wrote briefly about learning and knowledge and we shared our ideas.

In exploring these issues, one of my favorite topics to consider is the widely held myth that teaching is the transmission of information. 

In my experience, direct transmission is impossible. What is received is NEVER what is sent. I continue to be fascinated by how far off the reception is from what we think we are communicating.  The affect of the following on the learner cannot be overstated.
  • past knowledge and experience
  • the mood and distractions affecting her at the time of reception
  • her interests and fears
  • her capacity to foreground the information that we are highlighting - instead of some minute static we didn't intend to deliver
Sometimes I am amazed that we are able to communicate at all, let alone teach and learn. 

I think teaching and learning is not about transmission and reception of knowledge (as so many local politician's would have us believe).

Teaching and learning is the thoughtful and active process of negotiating the meaning of the transmission in spite of all of the barriers to reception. We use a variety of strategies to support meaning making including lecture, reading, repetition, discussion, reflection, use of multiple modalities, mixed media, hands-on experiences, authentic contexts . . .

1 comment:

Judy Hayward said...

I agree, Jane. The more I learn about learning and language, the more I am amazed that humans are able to interact. The image of the telephone game brought back happy memories of playing it as a child. The story was never the same at the end and it was usually pretty wildly different than the first telling. Judy