Routledge

Student Resources

Section 2

Additional questions and tasks for students are available here for further study.

Unit 2.1: Child Development

Question 1

What it is that makes play so important as a way of learning, particularly for very young children? In your response you should not use the words/phrases ‘fun’, ‘pleasurable’ or ‘they like it’.

Question 2

Scaffolding learning is one of the key tasks that teachers and more experienced learners can do to help children move on in their learning. How might you scaffold the learning of one child you know well? Think about helping the child move from dependence to independence.

Question 3

Malaguzzi talks of ‘the hundred languages’ of children. What does this mean to you and what provision would you make for this in your classroom or setting? Think particularly about the needs of bilingual children.

Question 4

As a practitioner you will need to know as much as possible about each of your learners. One of the things you will need to know is about the experiences the child has had before coming into your class or setting. How might you set about finding this out and how would you ensure that you build on this with the activities you plan to offer in your class or setting? Think of the diversity of experience, language and culture as you answer this.

Task

Emotional intelligence is something we are more and more aware of. Spend a morning in a classroom or setting observing one or more children in order to see if they display what you feel might be an appropriate range of affect. In other words, does the child demonstrate appropriate feelings according to what happens to him or her? We would expect children to be sad when things go wrong and happy when things go well, to find it difficult to share or communicate or take turns, to be willing to take part, and so on. Therefore, you will need to note the child's response and the context, and then decide if you feel the child's response is appropriate to that context.

Unit 2.2: Looking at Learning

Question 1

How might the views about learning explored in Unit 2.2 be seen in the learning that goes on around computers? Try to find some examples of computers being used in ways that fit a behaviourist, a constructivist and a social constructivist approach to learning.

Question 2

One currently popular way of looking at learning is to focus upon the apparently different ‘styles’ of learning that individuals have. You might be familiar with the visual, auditory, kinaesthetic distinction that this focus has produced. Read the critique of this concept by John Sharp and colleagues (Sharp, J.G., Bowker, R. and Byrne, J. (2008) ‘VAK or VAK-uous? Towards the trivialisation of learning and the death of scholarship’, Research Papers in Education, 23(3): 293–314) and consider the evidence for and against the learning styles theory.

Question 3

The definition of learning that you will find on Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Learning, accessed 10 February 2010) is the following: ‘Learning is acquiring new knowledge, behaviors, skills, values or preferences. It may involve processing different types of information.’ Given what you have been thinking about as a result of studying this unit, would you now consider this definition adequate? What might you want to add to the definition?

Task 1

Read the following article: Smith, M.K. (1999) ‘Learning theory’, The Encyclopaedia of Informal Education, www.infed.org/biblio/b-learn.htm.

Think about Smith's distinction between ‘task-conscious’ or acquisition learning and ‘learning-conscious’ or formalised learning. Although you, as a teacher, will be thinking more about the latter of these types of learning, it would be useful to consider the opportunities you provide for your pupils for the former. You might like to list some of these.

Task 2

Howard Gardner's conception of multiple intelligences (see www.infed.org/thinkers/gardner.htm for an excellent summary) has been widely adopted in education. Read the description on the above web page and, if possible, read some of Gardner's original work on this topic (Gardner, H. (1983) Frames of Mind, New York: Basic Books is perhaps the best place to start). Then think critically about what the implications of this conception might be for schools and classrooms.

Unit 2.3: From Learning to Teaching

Question 1

Discuss your understanding of a community of practice and its implications for learning. How might you develop your classroom into a ‘community of practice’ in light of the related article at www.infed.org/biblio/communities_of_practice.htm? The author concludes this article by giving what he calls three ‘significant pointers for practice’. These are:

  • Learning is in the relationships between people.
  • Educators work so that people can become participants in communities of practice.
  • There is an intimate connection between knowledge and activity.
Question 2

How might you profile metacognition in the classroom and activate children's prior knowledge? Discuss this with others before turning to the short video on metacognition that you will find on YouTube: www.youtube.com/watch?v=eRPVQFSmoqU. This video is aimed at helping students (like you) understand their own learning processes. It would be useful to think about and discuss how you might use some of the ideas here to inform your teaching. You might contrast the ideas in this video with those presented by Stephen Heppell: www.youtube.com/watch?v=7OsQ7ENMquM.

Task 1

Read the paper by Neil Mercer that you will find at the following web address: http://www.bath.ac.uk/csat/seminars/documents/Mercer_Reading.pdf.

Mercer concludes his paper by stating:

Research has also moved us to a better, if more complicated, understanding of how ‘speech’ helps the development of ‘thinking’. We have a clearer understanding of how an adult can guide the development of children's understanding; and we can identify features that make teacher-pupil talk productive. We can do the same for talk amongst collaborating learners.

Try to produce a bullet point list (or perhaps a PowerPoint presentation) outlining the research findings that have enabled Mercer to make these claims. It would be useful to do this in collaboration with some of your colleagues.

Task 2

The article entitled ‘Background knowledge’, which you can read at www.cast.org/publications/ncac/ncac_backknowledge.html, will give you an excellent review of strategies for ensuring that the prior knowledge of your pupils is activated before beginning a new topic with them. It would be useful to try out some of these strategies with your learners. You might, for example, try the KWL strategy and report back to your colleagues on your results in terms of pupil motivation and learning.

Unit 2.4: Developing Your Teaching Skills

Question 1

Are the current subjects in the National Curriculum the best way to organise learning for children?

Question 2

How do these subjects relate to current and future skills, knowledge and values needed by children?

Question 3

What are the advantages of theme-based and subject-based learning experiences?

Question 4

What are the most important transferable skills we need to develop in children and how can we best do this?

Task 1

Take any subject from the National Curriculum and ask yourself the following questions: Why does this subject matter? If I had to defend its importance to a sceptical parent, what would I say?

Task 2

Now develop your answer to the above question in relation to primary-age children now (i.e. why does geography matter to a five- or ten-year-old?) and in the future (why will it matter to them when they are adults?).

Task 3

Finally, ask yourself how your teaching of that subject can systematically (and hopefully enthusiastically) develop this understanding in children.

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