In my area of specialism there are sections that are easy to teach and natural to learn, by selecting a diverse approach to my teaching I maximise student learning by appealing to their learning preferences. Other sections are more complex and challenging to both teach and learn and, as a result, require that I fully utilise pedagogical principles in order to ensure student learning is maximised.
An example of a challenging section is teaching the architecture of a central processing unit (CPU). This covers the “three main domains of learning” (Wilson, 2016) which are Cognitive, Affective and Psychomotor. “The cognitive domain deals with how we acquire, process, and use knowledge. It is the “thinking” domain.” (Emporia State University, 2017) This is in contrast to the Affective domain that encompasses “attitudes, values, and emotions” (Emporia State University, 2017) and the Psychomotor domain comprises of “manual or physical skills.” (Emporia State University, 2017)
The cognitive domain of learning includes aspects such as the internal structure of a CPU, CPU specifications, power usage statistics, budgets, diagnostics and fault finding, this is obviously specific to my area of speciality. The Affective domain of learning includes factors such as equality and diversity of component manufacturers, diverse target audience, teamwork, etc. The Psychomotor domain of learning includes elements such as physically installing a CPU without damaging delicate elements and handling thermal paste, a particularly messy job if not handled correctly. In an attempt to fully target the Psychomotor domain and building a student’s muscle memory, repetition is utilised with students installing the CPU on multiple occasions throughout the semester. This will also benefit students as it is more likely to enter their long term memory (LTM) as “information will only stay in the LTM if it is reused or recalled often. ‘Frequency and recency’ govern our ability to recall what we have learned”. (Petty, 2004, p. 19) This links directly to Bloom’s Taxonomy, as Bloom’s Taxonomy is cognitive based, but also as the students move through the taxonomy repetition will be utilised as a plenary before moving on to the higher levels of the taxonomy. When students first start the unit they are able to remember by memorising elements of the CPU and how to install the CPU. Students will then be able to discuss the process and identify key elements within the process. Approaching the task in a variety of ways allows students to apply what they have learnt by implementing the CPU into different environments. Once students have achieved this level they are ready to attempt some of the pass criteria, those aiming for a merit must then be able to break this process down and analyse how the components relate to one another. Once students are able to analyse how the components relate and the effects of data travelling within a computer they must then be able to utilise this knowledge, along with information from other sources, to evaluate and make recommendations into heat dispersion techniques and other related complex analyses. Finally students must use all previously acquired learning and evaluate the most suitable components for specific use case requirements.
While it is a “mistaken idea that we learn better when the instruction we receive is tailored to our preferred way of learning.” (Jarrett, 2005) It is also near impossible to target each specific students preferred method of learning. I take the approach to utilise a variety of learning methods within my teaching. For example, while teaching how the internal functions of a component operate I will discuss with the group how they feel the component works, this covers the Auditory elements of the VARK learning model, I will then follow this with a written specification that clearly describes the internal elements of the component. I then make use of realia and hand out the actual component that has been stripped down so that students can physically interact with it, this would normally damage the equipment so it is unlikely they would ever have this experience outside the classroom. I follow this with a video of the component in use in an animated form, the animation allows elements to be demonstrated that would be impossible to do in real life, for example, data travelling within the CPU.
The students that I teach are all adults ranging in age from 18 to 50’s, it is common for students to have children and work in full time jobs alongside the course they are studying. As a result there are different approaches to teaching adult learners, known as Andragogy. The 3 key principles are that adults must understand why they are learning what they are learning, that adults must have self-direction and control over their learning and that adult learners must utilise their past experience. While teaching adults I always ensure that I discuss the background and goals of each of the students, this allows me to tailor the justification of why they are learning particular elements of the course, this also allows me to leverage their background within my lessons, such as students providing anecdotes of their experiences. If I wasn’t to do this and they deemed the course content irrelevant to them, they would not learn the material. I also ensure that I keep the material and assessments as flexible as possible, in some cases I am able to specifically target exactly what the learners what to cover. Unfortunately this is not always the case as some unit specification prevents any deviation from the exam board script.
Motivating students to learn within lessons can be a challenging process, fortunately there is relevant theory available, with the most widely known being (Maslow, 1954). Maslow grouped human needs into a “hierarchy, recognising that lower needs needed to be met before people can progress”. (Machin, Hindmarch, Murray, & Richardson, 2016, p. 120) A common issue I face while teaching is disagreement over the room temperature. This needs to be handled quickly as “if learners are cold or hungry in your lessons it is unlikely that they will be motivated to learn – they will not be able to move beyond the low level physiological needs of the hierarchy”. (Machin, Hindmarch, Murray, & Richardson, 2016, p. 121) Something that can make the room temperature issue more challenging is that women are comfortable at a temperature 2.5C warmer than men. (Kingma, 2015)
The next step of the hierarchy is Safety, this is applicable to my teaching in a number of ways, the first being to ensure the classroom is safe and making it clear that any form of bullying or violence will not be tolerated within the class. The less obvious form is while teaching a practical class ensuring that the health and safety procedure is discussed, this not only protects students but also prevents them from being afraid of having a debilitating accident, as a result students can move to the belonging level of the hierarchy, this includes ensuring students make friends within the group, this should be started early during the induction process to the course and should be built upon in every lesson in the form of pair work or group activities. “Social isolation is known to activate the ‘fight or flight’ stress signal”, (Knapton, 2016) this emotional state is completely unsuitable for learning. The 5th level is self-actualization, this relates closely to the Andragogy principles that adult learners need self-direction and will “proactively look for ways to fulfil their potential for learning”, (Faisal, 2016) to assist learners with self-actualization it is important to understand their goals and what they are hoping to achieve, both during the lesson, course and after graduation. This will allow flexibility to support the learner’s self-actualization.
Emporia State University. (2017, June 27). Learning Domains. Retrieved from Emporia State University: https://www.emporia.edu/studentlife/learning-and-assessment/guide/domains.html
Faisal, Z. (2016, 02 17). MASLOW’S HIERARCHY OF NEEDS FOR LEARNERS. Retrieved from The E-learning Networking: http://resources.eln.io/maslows-hierarchy-needs-learners/
Jarrett, C. (2005, 05 01). ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE ‘LEARNING STYLES’ MYTH, IN TWO MINUTES. Retrieved from Wired: https://www.wired.com/2015/01/need-know-learning-styles-myth-two-minutes/
Kingma, B. (2015). Energy consumption in buildings and female thermal demand. Nature Climate Change. Retrieved from BBC News: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-33760845
Knapton, S. (2016, 08 24). Having no friends could be as deadly as smoking, Harvard University finds. Retrieved from Telegraph: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/2016/08/24/having-no-friends-could-be-as-deadly-as-smoking-harvard-universi/
Machin, L., Hindmarch, D., Murray, S., & Richardson, T. (2016). A Complete Guide to the Level 5 Diploma in Education & Training (Second Edition ed.). St Albans: Critical Publishing.
Maslow, A. H. (1954). Motivation and Personality. New York.
Petty, G. (2004). Teaching Today: A Practical Guide. Cheltenham: Nelson Thornes Ltd.
Wilson, L. O. (2016, 10). The Three domains of learning: Cognitive, Affective, and Psychomotor/Kinesthetic. Retrieved from The Second Principle: http://thesecondprinciple.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/The-Three-domains-of-learning-10-2016.pdf