Formal education, particularly higher education, has traditionally been dominated by the 'transmission' model of learning. Learning is expected to take place via exposure to information; experts deliver it by techniques such as the lecture and learners passively receive it. Most of us will have experienced this kind of didactic scenario. Compare what you got out of that with a learning situation where you felt you were really actively getting to grips with a new idea - perhaps through dialogue with a mentor or a colleague, through analysing and reflecting on new material and developing a coherent written argument about it, or by taking part in a practical task that required you to experiment with, synthesize and apply your new knowledge.
According to the proponents of the theory of 'constructivism', this process of sorting out the new information in relation to what you already know, making connections between ideas, articulating your viewpoint and negotiating it with others, is exactly how learning takes place. As Mayes (1997) states, 'learning occurs as a by-product of understanding - understanding comes through solving problems and thinking'. There are many different strands of thought within constructivism, one of the most influential accounts of learning on current educational thought and practice, but at its core is the idea that learning occurs through the learner's active search for meaning and construction of their own understandings about the world.
Most contemporary educational settings involve a mixture of teacher-focused
and student-centred scenarios. Despite the wide acceptance of constructivism
as a valid approach - and its good fit with many people's intuitive, common-sense
knowledge about learning - the balance often remains in favour of lecture-like
situations where students may have no input at all - probably because this model
is cheaper, familiar and less hassle to organise. But this theory does remind
us that the provision of opportunities for interaction, discussion and reflection
must be the starting point for good learning.
Learning: passive reception or active exploration of ideas? (Figures 9-14)
Select thumbnails to access the relevant SCRAN resource.
|Figure 9: Nursing lecture given at 19 Chalmers St||Figure 10: University of Glasgow Gilmorehill chemistry class 1890s||Figure 11: Dunfermline College of Physical Education in Aberdeen, anatomy|
|Figure 12: Professor A.A.M. Duncan holding a seminar on Scottish history||Figure 13: Cumbernauld College||Figure 14: The work of the archaeological unit|
Last updated: Wed Aug 28 2002
© Author(s). Content published prior to 2013 is not covered by CC-BY licence and requests for reproduction should usually go to the copyright holder (in most cases, the author(s)). For citation / fair-dealing purposes, please attribute the author(s), the title of the work, the Internet Archaeology journal and the relevant URL/DOI.