A few weeks ago there was some buzz around a university administrator who was asking their professors to teach without technologies such as powerpoint. The idea was referred to as “teaching naked”. I like the idea of throwing out improper use of technologies in classrooms, but thought I might try a different take on the phrase “teach naked” to inform our classroom instruction.
Consider how removing the veil from our instructional decisions might enhance student learning. We as teachers make decisions based on what we know about how people learn, yet we often keep these decision making processes from our students. When we know a specific concept is going to be difficult for students to understand, we work to represent the concept more concretely or consider what experiences students might need in order to make sense of new information. How often do you let your students in on these decision making processes? I say we remove the curtain and teach students how to harness what is known about learning so that they might actually attain what we all want: to be highly capable independent learners!
Removing the curtain is not as easy as it sounds. First of all, the decisions teachers make regarding instruction and learning are based on highly abstract ideas and many students may not be ready to understand many of the complexities. Second, simply telling students that more concrete representations are easier to understand will not likely result in them internalizing the ideas so that they can use them in their own learning endeavors.
To help students learn how to learn we must first expose them to authentic learning experiences. For example, I had students observe different kinds of soil today in class, made a list of features of each kind, then I introduced the names and characteristics for the types of soil (I know, REAL exciting!). After the science learning, we took a few minutes to discuss why I planned things the way I did. I asked students why playing with the soil samples first helped them understand the difference of the types. I then asked students how handling objects directly might help them learn in other situations. From the resulting discussion, students were encouraged to think about how they might use more concrete representations (of course not in those terms) to help them when undertaking learning activities throughout life.
So the next time one of your lessons goes really well, take time to encourage your students to reflect on the learning activities and why they seemed to work so well.