For teachers, learning usually refers to things that happen in schools or classrooms, even though every teacher can of course describe examples of learning that happen outside of these places.
Teachers’ perspectives on learning often emphasise three ideas, and sometimes even take them for granted:
1. Curriculum content and academic achievement
2. Sequencing and readiness
3. The importance of transferring learning to new or future situations
Sometimes teachers tend to emphasise whatever is taught in schools deliberately, including both the official curriculum and the various behaviours and routines that make classrooms run smoothly.
In practice, defining learning in this way often means that teachers equate learning with the major forms of academic achievement - especially language and mathematics - and to a lesser extent musical skill, physical co-ordination or social sensitivity (Gardner, 1999, 2006).
In the classroom, there is a lot of learning that takes place alongside the explicit learning of the curriculum. This is called incidental learning and it occurs without the teacher or learner deliberately trying to make it happen. Teachers often see this incidental learning and welcome it. But their responsibility for curriculum goals more often focuses their efforts on what students can learn through conscious, deliberate effort.
The distinction between teaching and learning creates a secondary issue for teachers: educational readiness.
This concept traditionally referred to how well students were prepared to cope with or profit from the activities and expectations of school, e.g. a young child is ‘ready’ to start school if he or she is in good health, shows moderately good social skills, can use a pencil to make simple drawings, can take care of personal physical needs and so on.
At older ages, e.g. university level, the term readiness is often replaced by a more specific term: prerequisites.
It must be noted that this traditional meaning of readiness as preparedness focuses attention on students’ adjustment to school and away from the reverse: the possibility that schools and teachers also have a responsibility for adjusting to students. The latter idea is in fact a legitimate, second meaning for readiness, e.g. If a 5-year-old child normally needs to play a lot and keep active, then their teacher needs to be ‘ready’ for this behaviour by planning an educational program that allows a lot of play and physical activity.
Another result of focusing the concept of learning on classrooms is that it raises issues of usefulness or transfer. This is the ability to use knowledge or skill in situations beyond the ones in which they are acquired, e.g. learning to read and learning to solve arithmetic problems are major goals of the initial school curriculum because those skills are meant to be used not only inside the classroom, but outside as well.
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