Teaching as knowledge-transfer?

The concept that teaching is more than knowledge-transfer is not new – it is one of the underpinning principles of modern pedagogy. Very few teachers would argue that learning should be a tutor-led dissemination of information. My gut reaction is that learners particularly adult learners – come to class with a range of knowledge, skills and experiences … and learning needs to be applied to be relevant and useful. On the other hand, what about learning for learning sake? I do have a host of knowledge that is never really used – just information stored for retrieval / general knowledge … is that of less importance? Or does it make me a more rounded person?

In a webcast [1.  Brown, J.  S. (2007) ‘Open Learning Broadly Constructed’, OpenLearning Conference 2007, Milton Keynes, (online) Available from: http://stadium.open.ac.uk/stadia/preview.php?whichevent=1063&s=31  (Accessed 22 March 2011). ]  – amongst other works – John Seeley Brown rejects teaching and learning as only involving knowledge-transfer and discusses the idea that ‘understanding is socially constructed’. He focusses on the importance of participation and the effectiveness of study groups – extending this to consider social networking as a way of passing on that knowledge and learning. Brown also talks about social networks where people pass on their knowledge to others … surely this could be knowledge-transfer in a new form?

I would not see this as meaning that individual work is of less relevance or value, only that building it into group work is more effective – helping to internalise it and apply it.

Key implications of this for my teaching is the use of group activities to build on learning to ensure that it is integrated and applied. Brown also mentions the principle that learning is most effective when the learner teaches that new knowledge/skill to someone else. This is often referred back to learning as described in Edgar Dale’s 1946 Cone of Experience. However, it should be noted that Dale’s Cone of Experience did not contain any percentages for effectiveness of each learning / teaching strategy.

A question posed by the OU activity for this unit was: is it paradoxical to listen to an individual talking about the importance of group learning?

Yes! But then inline with Brown’s discussion, I am likely to disseminate this information to others through my social networks, for example my OU study group, this blog, my work interactions and so on.

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