Teaching and learning can ONLY happen organically – when infused, before, during and after, with an understanding of how a mind builds its cognitive structure. It’s simple: Knowledge >>> Understanding >>> Evaluation (KUE; actually I wonder if ‘Exploration’ is a better word than ‘Evaluation’, less preclusive, more open). You can teach unorganically, reductively, intensively (as in, farming), results-led (value-bled). It is much easier to measure (and therefore be used as political manure) like this. But the learning becomes Pavlovian – set stimulae, set responses to get the grade – pupils are given the knowledge, and they learn (= remember) it, or not. Pupils are also given the Understanding and the Evaluation/Exploration, and they learn/remember that as well, or not. They are not taught, as such, but are Educationally Behaved. Organic education is … the teacher’s apple (look at the shape of the diagram).
Preparing: teaching is the unpacking of (already established and recognised) knowledge. Unpacking happens every lesson, beginning with the identification of the Learning Objective (Learning Horizon) from the curriculum. Having focussed on the horizon, the map to it is opened-out by the teacher. The map is the structure/template through which to unpack knowledge – the components of Knowledge, Understanding and Evaluation (KUE) which are the structure and levels of cognitive learning – and this map is the PLANNED lesson. The way to write the map is to start with the learning objective and ask three sets of questions which deconstruct it into its constituent cognitive components – what are the facts (K), how do they work (U), what are the issues (E)? The answers to these questions yield the raw ingredients of the lesson. This level of analysis is conceptual and learned and requires a mastery of the subject in order to achieve it, clearly and efficiently.
Tasking: then comes the creativity in the lesson planning. Working from the raw ingredients you ask: how could the pupil find, identify, collect, collate etc. the facts of the topic (knowledge), how could the pupil connect the facts together to see how the topic functions (understanding), how might the connections be tested to evaluate the functionality of the topic (evaluation)? What is different about this stage of questioning is that you are thinking of questions that enable pupils to make the discovery themselves – the creativity is in the enabling, thinking of tasks that let them work the cognitive way back to the learning objective from discovery (of facts features – knowledge) through linking (the knowledge – understanding) to playing (with the links – evaluation). If the tasks do not allow discovery/linking/playing then they have lost reference to what they were trying to achieve (the Way to the learning objective) and they become directionless and pointless – there is activity, but it is not clear why it is being done even though it may have some related or recognisable association with the learning objective. The key, therefore, to this stage of lesson planning, is to build not any-old tasks that keep them occupied for a lesson, but tasks which ‘window’ the discovery, ‘thread’ the linking and ‘allow’ the play: growth. If you ask the right questions in the lesson, the learning will grow itself. Once you have got the questions right, only then do you think about resources and delivery – a mere formality after the main work of questioning has been done.
Lesson: then comes the magic of the lesson. The pupil works as far as s/he can through the lesson (K > U > E) and checks their progress through feedback which is phrased in the same KUE references. The journey is made naturally if the lesson has been constructed right ( // the questions have been posed organically). There is no chore here (in the sense of work for a deferred or prospective outcome), there is the momentum of: what-is-it, how-does-it-work, let’s-play-with-it? The learning should develop through stages of integration: having found things (discovery), you see how those things fit together (how they work, function), then you test how they fit together (practise their use if the subject is a skill, develop their use if the subject is a study). There should be no sense of having to lead-the-horse-to-water, the only thing holding back the pupil will be h/er current cognitive development.*
*There are some pupils with a measured low cognitive ability (i.e. CAT score), or low ability to develop (SEN), who, indeed, are ‘stuck’, lesson after lesson, year after year, because – I would argue – they have inexorable experience of task-for-no-immediately-discernable-gain which emphasises the frustration that their diagnosis identifies. Organically grown lessons should enable practice, lesson after lesson, year after year, of meeting the limit of their cognitive and learning ability and then pushing that limit a little further, rather than confirming their limit. In this way their education would truly be a transformative experience of growth rather than a consignment to limitation.
Feedback: after the journey has been made, the product of the lesson is given to the teacher who measures how far the pupil got and puts a level/grade on it. Every lesson. Is this onerous? No, because the breakdown of the lesson by the teacher should be clear and organic enough that the measure of the progress through it will be one of recognition, of mere identification: does it have those facts, does it show the connections between the facts, does it use/test the connections? The only ‘new ground’ that might be developed in the pupil’s work (and will therefore need more than cursory viewing) will be the higher explorations in evaluation; but these will be new findings, new applications, and the teacher will want to read them in full. Will the teacher need to give summative and formative analysis for each piece of work? Once there is a shared assimilation of cognitive development (K > U > E through teaching, K > U > E in learning) between teacher and pupil, borne through lesson-after-lesson, year-after-year of organic experience … no. Until then, yes, but make it a learning experience: single-word summations, prods, suggestions, questions, directions related directly to the level they have brought their work to and the next step beyond it. Again, if the cognitive road-map of the lesson has been constructed clearly and organically then the summative and progressive feedback to be given is clear.
creativity wwormhole: relapse
evaluation & knowledge & understanding wormhole: Structure & d y n a m i c
learning wormhole: no biggie:
results-led education: what I am about to say is true / what I just said was a lie