I believe learning is something that is completely individualized and personalized. When I work with middle schoolers, there is a different learning environment than with elementary and high school students. As a coach, I know learning is different in a sport than in a classroom. I coached a student who is extremely smart on the ice. He is a hard worker and understands the game very well. School work for him is a different story. He does have an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) that shows a learning disorder, dysgraphia, and a reading disorder, dyslexia. His teachers don’t assist him or allow him to understand the information better. When he has to read a book, he goes to the library and checks out the audio version. When the information is spoken or read aloud to him, he learns it. Helping him out to learn to retain relative information to solve problems or talk is what learning is about for him. He learns best individually and his learning is successful.
It is unfortunate we don’t have the number of educators to allow individualized learning to happen in school. Imagine if we did, even if it is computer based. There is a push from Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg to spend billions of dollars on education that would help personalize learning for every student. It would allow students to learn the way they learn. However, there is pushback. In November 2017, Benjamin Herold wrote an article for “Education Week” The Case(s) Against Personalized Learning, where Tiffany Dunn, a teacher from Kentucky says, “”This whole thing is coming from the tech industry, which doesn’t understand that what kids need is someone to love them and get excited about them,” (Herold, 2017). I’m not too sure all of the push is coming from the tech industry, but if it is, look at who’s pushing, Gates and Zuckerberg, two of the smartest and most influential people in the current generation, both had learning difficulties in school and eventually dropped out(Vital, 2014) to start their own extremely successful companies. They are more likely in tune with the students than the teachers who don’t adapt their style to fit the generation or individuals.
While attending schools in different states and different times throughout the 1980’s and 1990’s I can speak first hand on the reality when it comes to teaching and learning. There are good teachers you learn from and there are bad teachers you learn from. Usually we remember the good teachers. Why do we remember them? Because we get A’s in their class? Maybe because their class was fun? Or maybe the teacher was strict and demanded you know the material because you would later use it in life? All can be true. Most of the teachers I had were memorable on the good side. The bad ones were just as memorable for the opposite. The biggest difference between the good and the bad? The bad ones didn’t adapt to their surroundings but just kept doing what they thought was “The Way.” The students (including myself) in those classes, didn’t understand “The Way,” and our grades faltered for it. Now, I’m not saying that the instructors were 100 percent to blame in those classes, but when a majority of the students is struggling because the teacher doesn’t know the material or content within the material, it paints a pretty bleak picture. Nothing is personalized and it’s a “one size fits all,” classroom. However, I learned from bad teachers to be an independent learner. When a teacher makes an environment that is conclusive with learning, fun, creativity, boundaries and a safe and caring learning environment, learning happens. “In addition to being positive, boundaries support win-win power dynamics because they are themselves win-win.” (Bluestein, 2008). When there is a positive teaching environment, there is a positive learning environment.
As a learner it is clear that I fall under the constructivist category. I like having as much information as possible, and I find different ways to learn. Reading has always been a struggle with me. When I was younger, I couldn’t read and had difficulties reading aloud. Once that was addressed and I started reading aloud more often, came the comprehension part. Still to this day I have a hard time comprehending reading material. I usually have to re-read parts numerous times or listen to it on audio. At points I will search online, listen to audio, watch videos or discuss with friends about their findings. When coaching or learning as a coach, it’s done the same way. I tend to watch more videos on systems and plays than reading and looking at diagrams. The fun thing about looking at static images and text is that it lets your mind wonder what happens from point A to point B. Watching videos shows what happens, while reading and looking at images allows you to be more creative.
Teaching and learning have both similar and different stances and all depend on the environment, the age of the students, and what is the outcome. When coaching, I spend a lot of time coaching age groups 13-16. This particular age group is one of the hardest to coach because, the hormones, outside influences or distractions affect how structure is set up. So, a few years ago I did an experiment with my team. I started off the year as a Behavioralist or Authoritarian style of a coach, “my way or the highway.” The structure was there for rewards and punishments. Punishments were dealt with extra skating. Rewards were different weekly from Skittles for the players to coaches doing push-ups. Quickly the players knew what to expect and what was expected from them. Through the year I let the authoritarian style relax and started moving to a style centered around individual players. That season we won more than we lost and advanced the skill level of the team and the players.
The following year, I started the complete opposite way. Without having structure and discipline the team quickly folded and the players lost interest. The next season I went back to the original plan and we were back on track. There is something about this age group that they thrive on structure and discipline. I take this practice with me into the classroom and what I have figured out is that every person is different as is every age group. When coaching the younger players, it’s all about having fun, like teaching elementary school. Is there a difference between learning and teaching? I believe they go hand in hand. As a teacher you need to know information and as a learner you need to know information. As a teacher you must focus the student into the center (Harapnuik, 2019) and find away so that learner, can learn. As a learner, find that way to learn and then teach your teacher how you learn.
No matter which way you look at it, learning and teaching philosophies have to be adaptable to the target audiences. From young students to adult students a, learning facilitator has to be adaptable and focused on the center, the student. As learners, they have to make sure they are the center of the environment. It is all about the student and not the teacher.
Harapnuik, D. (2016, September 20). Learning Philosophy. Retrieved March 15, 2020, from http://www.harapnuik.org/?page_id=95
Bates, T. (2019, March 17). Tony Bates. Retrieved March 15, 2020, from https://www.tonybates.ca/2014/07/29/learning-theories-and-online-learning/
Herold, B. (2019, February 20). The Case(s) Against Personalized Learning. Retrieved March 15, 2020, from https://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2017/11/08/the-cases-against-personalized-learning.html
Education in Sweden. (2020, March 15). Retrieved March 15, 2020, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Education_in_Sweden
Annavitals. (2017, August 10). Famous Entrepreneurs Who Dropped Out Of College – Infographic. Retrieved March 15, 2020, from https://blog.adioma.com/entrepreneurs-who-dropped-out-infographic/
Riley, B., Deans, Heller, R., & Featuring Kappan. (2018, August 28). The value of knowing how students learn. Retrieved March 15, 2020, from https://kappanonline.org/the-value-of-knowing-how-students-learn/