Learning and Transfer

This week’s reading was a chapter from How People Learn titled “Learning and Transfer” and an article by Wiggins & McTighe “Put Understanding First”.  I found them both to be very persuasive. To summarize, learning is more than about memory recall. Learning is also about taking information you already know and applying it to completely different situations where you might need it. This happens in my GIS class right. We will learn something in one lab and then have to use that knowledge in subsequent labs. For instance, this lab on georeferencing requires us to understand map layout, raster and vector formats, and ArcGIS toolbars. These are all tools that I learned in earlier lab. I wouldn’t say this is the easiest way to learn (if you didn’t learn something well you pay later) but I do see the use in this.

I’m generally in favor of expanding the way we assess and the way we get information. After college, I was fascinated by how little my liberal arts degree in history didn’t immediately apply to any of my day jobs. But then after a couple of months, I begin to see patterns. For instance, being a history major meant I was able to contextualize large amount of information into time series. This made me particularly good at organizing reports and understanding complicated processes.

I particularly liked this quote from John Dewey in Chapter 3 “School should be less about preparation about life and more about life itself” (77). There’s something very salient about the idea that perhaps we’ve abstracted life preparation too much. At the same time, it is often tricky finding what will be useful and relevant. Certainly in library school I often look at classes and visualize how I will use them in my later career. Most likely most of my “graduate school guesses” will be incorrect. The best librarians I’ve met have an uncanny habit of speaking well of every class they had in library school saying they learned a lot from them. Perhaps the best librarians are the ones that can see learning opportunities where they can’t see the immediate application in front of them.


About Ilana the Librarian

I am an aspiring librarian at the University of Michigan.
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3 Responses to Learning and Transfer

  1. This idea that we need to practice rather than prepare is something that’s been floating around in my head since I got to SI… where I feel like I’m learning more practical things than I ever have before in my life. Putting aside undergrad and my first round of grad school (I was studying literature, I honestly didn’t WANT the knowledge to apply to much else, and it ended up doing so anyway), my thirteen years of (theoretically) solid public school education was ALL about preparation. Preparation for college, for the Real World, for taking AP tests and SATs and ACTs… not much about how to actually live the life that I was getting on with at the time (except for health/sex ed class, but that was mostly just a series of scare tactics). Do you think this happens because teachers and administrators don’t really think of students (children) as having real lives? Maybe a recognition of students as real people with active lives, rather than caterpillars just waiting around to leave the cocoon of education, would help make instruction more relevant.

  2. adamsliz says:

    I have a similar experience to you. I spent my undergraduate years studying English, a topic that does not necessarily seem to have a lot of connections to the real world. At the time, I was slightly frustrated; I knew that I would go on to grad school and a professional degree and felt as though I was biding time until then. Now I am able to recognize the “BIG PICTURE” ideas I learned from my undergraduate years. I can not only summarize information but articulate my particular reasoning. In the real world, I think that’s a really valuable skill to have, and it’s one that few people actually have or know how to use. So basically, yay for humanities educations!

  3. Kristin says:

    I love the John Dewey quote. It’s great to keep in mind for libraries, too — our goal is beyond the school in which we’re located. It’s a better life for the folks we serve.

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