We now have a structure of knowledge to work with and a set of objectives we will now look at the learners. We will define learners as those who by voluntary interaction are acquiring new information and skills and, Pupils as those who require directed guidance.
KNOW THE STUDENTS - AND KNOW YOURSELF
As soon as one accepts that there are those who are gifted we must also accept that though we may all be born equal in terms of fundamental rights we are not in either the range of potential skills or abilities. We must also accept that there as well as the specifically gifted there are also the generally gifted. One of our objectives is to assist in achieving all in achieving their potentials we must examine and allow for the range of differences in learning modes.
CAGES FOR AGES
First we must break out of the cages for ages syndrome. One of the laws of development is that there is survival value in a great range of differences within a species. The greater the range the greater the chance of survival. The range of human difference is vast and it is well that it is so. At conception humans are equipped with different perceptual abilities and they are hard wired with different potentials. Throughout their lifetimes humans develop different skills and they develop them at different rates.
I have been appalled by the number of adults who have said to me "I am dumb at maths". Mathematics is a segment where up until now the chains have tended to be more rigid than others and this perception has been reinforced by the ethos. Those who at an early age tend to think in this mode have their responses reinforced, those who donít are given an early experience of failure. The human brain has not got its full complement of cells and pathways at least until age 45. The last areas to develop in some may have been the first in others. The concept that the learner or the pupil has "failed" must be relegated to its proper place and the concept of "not yet ready" must replace it. Whilst it is not unusual for those over 45 to discover skills in the arts, it is an indictment of the manner in which we deal with mathematics that such experience in the mathematics is rare. There are very few who have a similar mathematical experience. It is strange that in 10 thousand years of civilization we have not widely recognized that the physical size of the individual is not the determinant of intellectual skill or achievement. Neither is the chronological age of the individual.
In designing and educational system let us for a moment consider some of the elements of difference in learning and leaning styles in the individual students. Some of these will be genetically hard wired at conception and others will be the result of growth and development. I would contend that the Nature v Nurture debate is the province of Lilliputian thinking. Should you crack the egg on the big or the little end is a concept which should be explored with interest but not used as a sole determinant.
Introversion- Extroversion Continuum (Neurological Response Rate [NRR])
Firstly lets consider the neural network. I would suggest that the greater the diameter of the neurons the faster the rate of transmission of signals along the network . This will tend to given such individuals fast reflexes. It is likely to give a high propensity for such individuals to be primarily introvert. Generally their neural system is sensitive to low levels of input. They will tend to seek to control their sensory input. Many will seek to do this through technology. Many will tend to become technicians they will tend to use the technology to control the sensory input. Indeed they will often regard their computers or equipment as extensions of their neural system. A note on the recording equipment of a technician with whom I worked read " Do not touch this equipment even if your father invented it". They will tend to dislike and learn less effectively from personal interaction. A classroom will often be perceived as an assault on the senses. Given their preferences they would sit in a corner and learn from a book or from a computer on the frequently alone. To force them into a classroom with a mass of sensory input is not only incarceration but a form of torture. For them the social and personal interaction of a group is anathema
At the other end of the scale are those with smaller diameter nerves or neurons. They have a higher threshold of arousal and will need or prefer greater stimulation. These are the fundamentally extrovert.
Those who are fundamentally extrovert will regard a "truly interactive" classroom as an ideal learning environment. The traditional classroom will rarely qualify as being truly interactive. Frequently they will dislike computers and programmed learning to the point of abhorrence, at the best they can adapt by concealing their aversion.
We must avoid as far as possible categorization of people. The students will cover a great range from Fundamentally High Introvert (FHI) through to Fundamentally High Extrovert (FHE) on a continuum.
Throughout I use the term Fundamentally. The fundamentality is due to the physiological component. To indicate the importance of understanding this aspect, if one were to consider a high introverts who take to independent travel. They will eventually find that in order to get information or service they will need to interact and they will develop secondary extrovert characteristics. Some will do it so successfully that it will seem unbelievable that they are fundamentally Introvert. For this and other reasons I do not favour the written questionnaires which are subjective and so easily manipulated. Much more acceptable objective measures such as reaction or response timers. Though perhaps the best option would be a combination of both techniques together with situation trials.
It would follow that the best learning system would be tripartite where there were computer based learning programmes, both in school and in homes to cater for the BHI students. Classrooms where there are both human interactive and computer based programmes will cater for those who prefer a combination of techniques. For those who are at the high end of the FHE they will be happy with high level human interaction programmes provided they are properly designed.
The next item in the profile of our learners is the question of the preferred area of the brain being accessed by the student in solving of problems. This will have a significant effect in determining the most effective manner of presenting learning situations and materials for them. It is now generally accepted that there are many who are laterally disbalanced hemispherically in the brain.
Generally speaking those with left hemisphere dominance have a High tendency to think in digital terms, they would prefer accountancy to auditing, they prefer the structure and grammatics of language, in listening to music they will tend to hear the wrong notes. When being taught a foreign language for instance they will prefer the vocabulary and grammar, try to teach them through the melody of the language and they will be struggling. It is often suggested that this hemisphere is not creative but I would contend that they can also be creative and that their form of creativity is just often not as readily recognized as such at present.
Those who are right hemisphere dominant tend have a tendency to think in patterns or be Gestalten. To them the melody is perceived in preference to the notes. They prefer the auditing to the accountancy but they tend to be excluded from this occupation as generally this area is approached through left hemisphere skill of accounting. We often therefore indulge in a form of intellectual reverse culling if one may use that term.
In the teaching of foreign languages those who are right hemisphere dominant will much prefer the melody of the language, and will learn a new language best that way. One example of the nature of such distinction was in country Victoria we encountered a recluse who appeared to speak a language none of us could identify. We had a tertiary level linguist in the group who was completely stumped. We were lost and it was important for us to understand what we were being told. Another member of the group eventually said I donít know how but I do believe I know what he is saying. Following those directions we found them to be accurate. When we investigated further our "interpreter" said that he had just listened to the melody of what the recluse had been saying and though he could not give the words he understood the meaning. Following the directions as understood they were found to be accurate. Further investigation some time later revealed that the recluse in question had the roof of his mouth deformed from birth and had never learned to speak properly.
There is indeed a third element to element of laterality. The two hemispheres are bridged by the Corpus Collosum the greater the size and the use of this bridge the greater the access to both hemispheres. Of course all foetuses are initially female, if the foetus becomes male then one of the early things which happens with the introduction of the male hormones into the system there is a tendency for one or other of the hemispheres to disbalance. One might be so bold as to suggest that this differentiation could have survival value for the species. If one accepts that the greater the variety within the species the greater the survival value then if we also accept that the male is the more expendable in breeding we would expect that there would be a greater range of performance in the male. In the classroom I would suggest that this is indeed the experience. The range of male performance tends to be greater than that of the female. They are frequently the highest and the lowest performers.
Again we have a continuum. Those who are hemispherically disbalanced will perform at their best where their learning environments are designed with materials and situations which cater for their learning mode. They will tend to fail where it is not matched. In this area we are highly likely to be disadvantaging thsoe who have very high potential. We are certainly not any where close to achieving the objective of assisting each student or learner to reach full potential. Again we have the need to recognize that there is a tripartite solution. We should be providing tailored learning environments for those at both ends and for those who are in the centre.Whilst recognizing the gifts of those at either end of the continuum we should also recpgnize the contribution of those in the centre whose greatest and largely undervalued skill is that of integration.
It is clear that on this continuum alone unless there is understanding and the appropriate matching of learning guides with learners then it is not only a 6 to 12 year incarceration without remission for good behaviour but it is also a violation of international human rights in that it is arguable that it can be classified as cruel and unusual punishment, or perhaps it is better said that it is cruel and all too usual punishment.
The next element in the development of the Wholeagraphic profile of our learners is the sensory system with which they are endowed.
We as entities have a range of sensory organs which provide us with our knowledge of the universe around us. There is a growing understanding that our sensorium is composed of considerably more than just the 5 traditional senses. What is euphamistically called the sixth sense is really a range of other senses, for example the vomeronasal organ which appears to detect Pheremones at a subliminal level and which influences behaviour. It is common knowledge that dogs and horses can sense fear in humans though the production of fear pheremone. Some humans produce more than other and may account for those who are constantly attacked and bullied. The same pheremone in low concentration and at distance in some organisms translates as "come help" in high concentration and close proximity translates as "attack".
Consider a traditional class situation student is fearful, the message as received by the teacher at a subliminal level causes teacher to approach student, as the teacher comes close may start to feel aggressive toward the student. Pheremones (units of smell message) may well account for the so called instinctive like or dislike by people for certain other people. This subliminal communication system may well also account for the working of the incest taboo a phenomenon which has been shown to even cross the species barrier with chimps who have been brought up in human families.
There is also a sense which tells people that there is someone nearby. Experiments with personal space have shown that when approached from behind some people are not only aware but may also feel threatened. This may well be related to the electro-magnetic field that surrounds all living things and which is used by sharks such as the highly sensitive hammerhead for the detection of living things. With humans it may well be that this explains those who have a large zone of personal space. To force such people to constantly be in very close proximity to others will make them feel nervous or anxious. One would not be surprised to find that they are troublesome in the traditional classroom At other times many people will report being to be able to feel when they are being looked at.
Our sensorium is in the process of being expanded partly our increasing understanding. It is also being expanded through the use of bionics and of cybernetics and through the use of sensory implants. Our children will live in a world where their sensory system will be able to be expanded or enhanced. One of the prime purposes of the education system must be to assist the students to exist in the present and in the future that they will hopefully inhabit.
Each of the senses should be charted and the learner should be made aware of the sensitivity and range of that individuals system. For example in the perception of colour the differences between individuals and between the sexes is easily demonstrated. The fact that it is not widely appreciated is attested to by the attempt not that long ago by the British postal system to identify stamps and their origins by using the 100 hues of each colour. It was of course a dismal and costly failure. It does however serve to make a point. All should be aware of their own range of perception and that the perceptual range of others is not the same. The three universes concept should be fostered. That is that there is the universe as perceived by me, the universe as perceived by you and the universe on which we can both agree. The widespread acceptance of this bit of wisdom in itself ,I would believe, should lead to greater tolerance and understanding, as well as greater educational efficiency.
Too often have I entered classes and found that there are a significant number of the learners who are unable to see the board or the screen, quite unbeknown to the educator, the parent, even to the learner, her or himself. In the case of the traditional chalk and talk classroom they my often be found at the rear of the class. There they have found relative peace from the unwelcome and painful attention of the "teacher"
Many of the so called problem children in the traditional classroom on being tested turn out to have reduced perceptual range or sensitivity for instance to be quite deaf. This is an indictment of the educational systems in the advanced countries which can readily find Billions to spend on armaments but not on their own children. They often force their children to be 8 hours a day five days a week in working conditions that neither they nor their unions would permit in the industrial employment venue.
It should be realized the each of the five traditional senses may be multiplied by a factor of 3.. The sensory input may go through (a) conscious processing, (b) direct into memory store (c) direct into action. This consideration is for later concerns however.
It has been postulated that the vast majority of information input to humans is through vision . This is the sense which has the greatest ability to carry data or in other words with the highest channel capacity. Vision is not only a matter or the stimulation of the receptor cells called rods and cones in the eye but of their numbers and sensitivity, this will vary between the sexes and from individual to individual. The signal generated is sorted at the Lateral Genticulate Nucleus and travels to the visual cortex where it is processed. When working with visual perception it can be readily shown that visual reality Is purely what the brain interprets it as.
For many years I used a replica of a magnificent painting by Irene McHugh of California. My learners would say what they saw. Before long others in the group would say "but I thought that was aÖ"
Then would come what I would refer to as the "Oh Yeah" Syndrome as a number of the audience would experience a shift as what they had seen as one thing would appear to be something else. When they had a number of these experiences many would come to realize that nothing was changing on the screen that the shift was in their brain. The truth is that because we are looking at the same does not mean we are seeing the same. As intending educators this was a most valuable experience. The object of this parable is to demonstrate that a range of leaning experiences must be provided for efficient and effective learning to take place.
As intending educators this was a most valuable experience. The object of this parable is to demonstrate that a range of leaning experiences must be provided for efficient and effective learning to take place.
Further it is a major step to realize, and to be continually aware that what we transmit is not necessarily what is being perceived.
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