Significant Learning

Instructional Strategies – ADLT 603 – Post 3

It was fascinating to see the diagram of The Learning Pyramid put out by the National Training Laboratories. Average retention rate of a straight lecture = 5%, reading = 10%, A/V = 20%, demos = 30% — woa! These are the passive approaches using the methods of pouring knowledge into an empty container. And yet, these approaches are sooo prevalent in most of my formal learning experience and also still quite highly regarded today in most settings – from formal to informal education. The approaches used in the Adult Learning program at VCU do definitely seem to differ from most higher ed classes from what I gather. And from my experience in the nonprofit world, passive methods are seen to still be the way to ‘ensure people get the content’!! ‘If we tell them, they will get it’! or at least the material will be ‘covered’ that the learner should get. And yet the learning pyramid suggests that using passive methods to learning most of the content flies across the screen comprehension and out the window into the ether somewhere…

And yet it is the participatory methods such as group discussion, practice and actually teaching others where research shows the most retention is found. So, why don’t teaching methods change? It seems it’s that perennial issue of those with more knowledge addressing/sharing with those with less – they/we/I want to transfer/give/dump everything we have learned instantly into/onto the learner. And, can they take it all in – connecting it with their existing knowledge and experience? I guess the thing here seems to me about integrating the knew knowledge coming in with preexisting knowledge…

I like the perspective of Fink’s taxonomy of significant learning. It really brings in more to the learning equation than just getting the content in the brain. Clearly that’s a part, but Application such as skills (maybe even soft ones such as listening and empathy — oh, that word that culture at large seems to be so afraid of recently), critical thinking and creative thinking too! Awesome! How do we think creatively? I don’t know the process, but I do like to do it! And then Integration where we connect people, ideas, and different realms of life. How about Caring and the Human Dimension? What do I know about myself and how about others? And then there’s Learning about Learning. I don’t think I began considering how I actually learn until a friend put a model of an experiential learning cycle up on a slide and began talking to me about experience, reflection, patterns, principles, and application.

I see much of the taxonomy of significant learning to be important as far as my intuition goes. I would love to find some research based evidence that supports the proposal.


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