A Mindset for Learning
There are dozens of theories about learning, and while we do borrow from Lev Vygotsky’s “Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD)” when he describes how educators have to be responsive to young learners’ best “zones” for learning, we have narrowed our discussion to theories of adult learning that have been proven to work best actively and collaboratively. This is called constructivist learning, where the knowledge in the classroom is constructed from below (which requires that students are collaborating with teachers)—as opposed to knowledge or information delivered from the top (where teachers deliver a lecture).
Hence, this is the foundation of learning that will frame all of our activities in this textbook, where learning is not just about reading information and memorizing it, but where what you get out of this text largely depends on the energy you put back into it through our Discussion Forums, annotation prompts and further conversations ‘in the margins’ using hypothes.is. We are excited about the Open Educational Resource (OER) online format of this text because it allows open spaces for collaboration of ideas, using hypothes.is, to help you “learn by doing” even when reading at home. This approach is the foundation of active learning and what makes learning engaging, fun, and ultimately the most rewarding for both you, the students, and us, the teachers.
Don’t take our word for it. Let’s start our discussion of active learning with critical teachers who have come before us.
Alfie Kohn is just one of these progressive educators and theorists who frames our beliefs about critical, active learning through the importance of questioning. Kohn argues that questioning is how students learn best, and challenges the old school learning model, where “Students are expected to do whatever they’re told, to accommodate themselves to a curriculum that was created by adults who never met them” (3). Sound familiar? We hope not, but unfortunately, it is all too familiar to most high school students and something we wish to address in our courses.
Supplemental Reading #1: Who’s Asking? by Alfie Kohn
For our purposes, let’s demonstrate our response to this “old school” model of schooling by changing the game a bit, and giving you a chance to contribute back to the text in our first Discussion Forum.