Learners Learning


As teachers we sometimes believe that learning and knowledge can only be attained through the words that come from our mouths. But there is a difference between spreading knowledge and fostering learning. To create environments for learning obviously takes the proclamation of knowledge (pedagogy ), but also requires automous learning practices among students (anagogy).

If you are a teacher, try allowing for periods of student-led discussion to take place in your next session. “Studies show that students taught in small, student-led discussion groups without a teacher not only did at least as well on a final examination as student who heard the teacher lecture, but their curiosity and interest in the subject was greater” (McKeachie).


~ by Dave Smith on April 8, 2008.

3 Responses to “Learners Learning”

  1. Dave,

    The timing of your post is interesting to me, because I’m currently in a class that meets for 3 hours per week and is nearly 100% student-led.

    On the one hand, this does foster a lot of student involvement and ownership.

    However, last week I had a discussion with about 4 other classmates who are losing a lot of interest in the class because it is almost completely student-led.

    Two reasons seemed to be held in common. First, after a while, it just gets boring to hear students ask question after question, which are often incoherent and unrelated to each other. In short, the discussion is usually one tangent after another, and we never really make any solid conclusions. Second, most of us have made a lot of sacrifices to be hear, and to be honest, we want to draw upon the knowledge of our professors. In short, we have paid a lot of money to hear what our professors have to say.

    Now I don’t say any of that because I disagree with what you’ve posted, because we’ve all been in a class in school or church that was dominated by the teacher. I am interested in what you think an appropriate balance is, however. I’m sure there’s no magic formula that can be universally applied, but do you think there are guiding percentages that can be applied?

  2. Great contrast here Ben. 3 hours and all student-led. Outside of a “lab setting” I am not sure I have seen too many examples like this.

    Which class is it?

    You bring up a good point of needing a balance between “anagogy” and and “pedagogy” in learning settings. (in my opinion)

    I have been an admirer of Piaget, but can’t fully embrace his idea of student autonomy, assuming students learn only or mainly through student interaction.

    That is why through my personal journey I have grabbed onto Lev Vygotsky’s research on learning, needing a mixed balanced of student and teacher interaction.

    Much of my bent on these issues not only coms from their own research and theories, but also some of my own teaching philosophy based the social sciences and theology.

    As far as a percentage betweent the two…I would say a mix is needed, but how that plays out is situational based on the class.

    Great example!

  3. The class title is “Creation, Cosmology, an Theology.” The reason for it being student led is the professors, however, not the course content. The Profs I have are notorious for dodging actually doing any work in class and delegating it all to students. It doesn’t have anything to do with them pursuing more effective pedagogy. Oh, PTS.

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