1.2 Understand how students learn, 1.5 Differentiate teaching to meet the specific learning needs of students across the full range of abilities, General

Settling in

The first week of a new year is always hectic. The second week, on the other hand, is always more relaxing. Somehow, professors understand that we cannot read 10 articles per subject so they have already cut down our workload. All the stress of the first week disappears and we really start to get into the nitty-gritty. 

This week, we mainly focused on child’s development and cultural influences. Much of the material we have covered this week are things that I came across in the past. We may not have looked into Piaget and Vygotsky’s theory, but we did discuss Lenneberg’s critical period, which specifically deals with language learning. I feel that if we combine these three theories, they all conclude that humans learn in different manners once they mature.

Personally, what I found most interesting was the Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) in Vygotsky’s theory. It claims that people have a certain level of knowledge, but can achieve a maximum with help of an expert according to their personal ZPD. I know this sounds very vague so I will try to exemplify.

As a teacher, you have more knowledge about your subject than your students. Your year seven’s will not be able to achieve your level of knowledge since the discrepancy between their knowledge and yours is bigger than their ZPD. However, if you scaffold the material they might be able to achieve your level over several years.

So as a Bachelor of Arts in English Language and Culture, I would be able to read and understand Shakespeare’s Sonnet 130. My future year seven’s will not, but if I teach them how to read and analyse easy poems, by the time they are in year 11/12 they will be able to read and understand Sonnet 130. The reason we scaffold is to make sure the students achieve the maximum of their ZPD and gain knowledge, which will be extended further in follow-up lessons.

The hardest part of this is obviously that no student in your class is going to be the same. All the individual’s starting points are different and no one’s ZPD is equal. It will be up to us as teachers to engage and challenge all these different students equally.

© Kirsten Bos, Miss Bos, 2017

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