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Kyle Cushman

To other voices crying in the wilderness of ignorance.

By Dennis Congos, University of Central Florida

To other voices crying in the wilderness of ignorance.

For many years I have advocated teaching students the skills indispensable to learning and have done so in opposition to the anachronists who still advocate the "sink or swim" philosophy in education. How humans learn is a definable body of knowledge, which can be taught to students as soon as they are able to learn. The position of much of education today reminds me of an automobile manufacturer who has produced defective cars. To not lose customers the manufacturer creates a process for correcting or remediating the defects until the original process that resulted in the defects itself is corrected. However, a wise manufacturer will not make the latter process permanent.

The education system seems to have made remediation a main focus of its time, energy, and finances and avoided correcting the causes that result in the need for remediation. I have found that those most blind to the connection between the skills for learning and the resultant learning are the schools of education who are training our teachers. These schools do a wonderful job on educational theory, teaching planning, understanding research, and providing hands-on experience but many to not even have a basic class on specific skills for assimilating knowledge. I personally have had education department heads say to me that teachers don't need that. I have seen several others eliminated existing credit classes that teach skills for learning or demonstrated strong resistance to proposals for creating such classes for credit. Therefore, how are teachers supposed to know how to teach skills for learning when they are not taught such in the schools of education? Sink or swim on.

Having run Supplemental Instruction (SI) and tutoring programs and taught learning skills classes for many years has given me insight into the enormous benefits of weaving in the skills for learning in with the subject matter to be learned. Students who get this information experience more effective and successful ways to learn and this is reflected in higher grades, greater self-esteem, more self-confidence, and higher graduation rates. However, while SI and tutoring programs are effective and successful, they tend toward the correcting previous shortcomings of the educational system.

What if all future teachers were required to take one or two classes in teaching students how to learn? What if schools of education faculty expected to see these strategies and skills woven in to homework, research papers, lesson plans, and student teaching experiences? What if schools incorporated how well teachers weave skills for learning into the subjects they teach as a part of the evaluation and promotion system? I think the education system would begin to correct the defects that produce students with poor skills and strategies for learning.

I have taught many workshops to teachers on the skills for learning and a nearly unanimous cry from them has been "Why haven't we been taught this in college?" My response has been who will teach teachers how to teach student how to learn? Schools of education? Sadly, my encounters with faculty and administrators in schools of education has taught me that there is little hope for change in this direction.

Until then, I and other learning skills professionals can take solace in the fact that we teach what students have to learn to learn what faculty has to teach.

Best wishes to all.......................


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