December 12, 2007

Ken Bain (Part 3): Effective Learning Environments

This is Part 3 of our series on Ken Bain's visit to BGSU. Ken serves as Vice Provost, Professor of History, and Director of the Research Academy for University Learning at Montclair State University and is the author of "What the Best College Teachers Do."

In order to create an effective learning environment, 2-3 very complex conditions need to take place:

1) Create an “expectation failure”
We learn from our mistakes often better than from our successes. Bain suggests that teachers need to put the learner in a situation where their existing paradigm does not work, then rebuild it from there. This is usually created from some sort of intellectual challenge or cognitive dissonance. "It needs to be more than just telling them the truth – that doesn’t work," explains Bain. (i.e. - lecture doesn’t work - for long term, for most students)

2) Make it meaningful or engaging
The learner has to care deeply enough to struggle through the incongruity (and this needs to be timely... if it takes too long, they are onto other things)
Teachers must carefully select mental models or paradigms that can cause this incongruity, but yet attract student interest, leading to student engagement. In other words, "How can you create an expectation failure where students will care enough to struggle through it?"

3) Provide emotional support (if needed)
As students encounter a challenge to their beliefs, some sort of emotional support may be needed, especially when dealing with most religious convictions, which are very difficult for students to question, let alone consider alternatives.

What do you think about these conditions for effective learning environments? Do you agree? What other conditions are needed, if any?

Click on the COMMENTS link below to leave your thoughts!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

As Dorothy Parker says, "The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity." Find a way to get them curious, keep them learning---possibly for life.