Tag Archives: learning

The educator’s conceptual view – know what you are teaching!

Limited subject matter knowledge restricts a teacher’s capacity to promote conceptual learning among students. Even a strong belief of “teaching mathematics for understanding” cannot remedy or supplement a teacher’s disadvantage in subject matter knowledge. A few beginning teachers in the procedurally directed group wanted to “teach for understanding.” They intended to involve students in the learning process, and to promote conceptual learning that explained the rationale underlying the procedure. However, because of their own deficiency in subject matter knowledge, their conception of teaching could not be realized. Mr. Felix, Ms. Fiona, Ms Francine, and Ms. Felice intended to promote conceptual learning. Ironically, with a limited knowledge of the topic, their perspectives in defining the students’ mistake and their approach to dealing with the problem were both procedurally focused. In describing his ideas about teaching, Mr. Felix said: “I want them to really think about it and really use manipulatives and things where they can see what they are doing here, why it makes sense to move it over one column. Why do we do that? I think that kids are capable of understanding a lot more rationale for behavior and actions and so on than we really give them credit for a lot of times. I think it is easier for anybody to do something and remember it once they understand why they are doing it that way“.”
– Liping Ma, Knowing and Teaching Elementary Mathematics (2010, page 36)

The most important thing to remember when teaching maths – when teaching anything – as the teacher, the educator and the facilitator, is that you must understand what you are teaching. This is what Ma (2010, p. 36) is talking about here.

As a teacher and a professional educator, you are responsible for providing knowledge to your learners, not just passing it to them as information in a book or in the form of confusing statistics and facts, but as an understood conceptual view of the content. If you do not understand what you are teaching, this may invite opportunity for confidence to fall in your learners – you are the trusted educator in the classroom, on which your learners depend on to provide subject matter with an understanding you have thoroughly revised, in order to adapt the content to best explain it to them.

Outsmarted?… Imagine this. You are planning a lesson – a maths lesson. You have a vague and somewhat passive understanding of the content you intend to teach. And so you think your learners will trust that you understand what input they are going to receive, because, after all, you are the teacher. Right? That passive understanding you have, is only going to brush off onto your learners. Children are observant and will easily pick up on your mistakes, your struggles and perhaps your lack of confidence when you are teaching them. So, you plan your lesson, still intact with your passive understanding of the content you intend to teach. Then it comes to your lesson and your learner outsmarts you. Perhaps in the form of a question, that you cannot answer. Is this due to your negligence?

Your learners depend on you to know what you are talking about, and here, Ma, explains the profound importance to approach your intended learning content with a conceptual view – if you understand, you have more chance of your learners understanding!



Ma, L. (2010) Knowing and Teaching Elementary Mathematics – Teachers’ Understanding of Fundamental Mathematics in China and The United States. London: Routledge.

A Helping Hand – Working Together

An approach to learning. A learning style. Currently evolving. The sharing of knowledge. Expressing views and ideas. Assisting and helping. Working together. Collaborative Learning.

Collaborative Learning is an ongoing and widely debated topic in Scottish Education and a learning style encouraged and discouraged. It is an approach to learning and a way of working together and sharing ideas, building on knowledge and, most importantly, enhancing children’s confidence in being social. However, as a practitioner, I am also aware that collaborative learning does not always have a positive impact on children’s learning and development.

Due to my ongoing collaborative practice in university classes, as well as having observed collaboration of between children in my placement, I find that working collaboratively can have the positive impact of enhancing confidence and building on knowledge. Working with others allows opportunity to gain an insight to other people’s ideas and ways of thinkingwhich in itself puts into practice communication skills we teach our learners…
– Listening
– Talking
– Turn-taking

“Jigsaw Learning”
– http://www.schoolsworld.tv/node/1247

I was unaware of just how interesting and helpful collaborative learning can be – the outcomes. However, after watching this video, my insight has been enhanced and I can relate it to what I have observed in practice.

“Jigsaw Learning”, as seen in this video, is an approach to learning which is active-based. Active Learning is an important approach the Curriculum for Excellence promotes and jigsaw learning encourages this. This is a learning style in which children participate in game-­like activities, working together. In Park Lane Primary School, seen in the video, the children demonstrate collaborative learning by researching and creating presentations on provided poems. This is an example of Jigsaw Learning, which places responsibility on the children and encourages equality of opportunity and teamwork as the research-based task is controlled by the group of children. As the groups alternate, the children develop socially, as well as sharing their knowledge.

Collaborative Learning allows the teacher and the children to be flexible and adaptable to every child’s stage of development. In this video, the children peer assess their work and if any corrections are required to be made, this follow ­up is done collaboratively. To encourage Collaborative Learning, in Park Lane Primary School, the children are seated at tables of mixed ability groups, which are changed every two weeks. This forces children to work together to overcome struggles or difficulties, which often encourages scaffolding to take place – children of higher ability can assist and support children of lower ability (Vygotsky, 1978). However, having seen this arrangement in my placement setting, I am aware that this can also have a negative effect on children’s confidence in using their voice with their peers, as, in some cases, their classmates are not the friends they are most comfortable in using their social skills with.

Not only has my awareness of Collaborative Learning been enhanced by this video, my understanding has developed of how Collaborative Learning works in a beneficial way for each individual child involved in the learning experience. For example, the children are assessing each others’ work, explaining their feedback. The outcome of this is that children understand areas to improve on, as well as recognising their next steps. Peer support is an important trait in working together which proves effective for many children, as it allows children to assist their peers in overcoming difficulties they may have reached themselves

children being the teachers at this time. 

Collaborative Learning works within the classroom between the teacher and the pupils, as well as pupil-to-pupil. In this video, the class teacher provides the children with an insight to their aims and targets for their stages of all curricular subject areas. The teacher shows the targets to the children in the class and following this, the children think of activities and tasks to carry out, to allow them to meet their targets. This allows the children to have an understanding of the content they are learning and, subsequently, having pupil-directed input of how they want to learn it. The children then peer-assess, making links to the success criteria and this allows each individual child to have an awareness of their progress and an understanding of areas of improvement.

One pupil in Park Lane Primary School, as seen in the video, explains,
“some people might not understand the work, but someone else might understand the work really well. I think it works really well because they can help each other”.

Working together, in pairs, small groups or larger groups, is a memorable experience for myself. I remember reading books in groups, throughout Primary School. I remember, paired-­reading, in which I worked with a younger pupil within the school, assisting her in reading. As well as the pupil developing her Literacy, it benefited myself and my social development.

I would best summarise my understanding of Collaborative Learning as the approach the Curriculum for Excellence takes of theorist Lev Vygotsky, that learning is a “social process” and learning is most effective when people are learning from each other. It is the group tasks which are the most memorable. Collaborative Learning is most important.

Let’s talk philosophy… MA1

It is fundamental for any teacher to have their own philosophy of education, which is made up of their values and beliefs about learning, teaching and education, because this is an influential element of the learning, planning and reflecting process in the classroom, of which the teacher is responsible for.

Education is a never-ending, lifelong learning experience throughout which an individual to learn information, process knowledge and develop skills and abilities through experience and practice, which will develop the individual in becoming well-rounded. The value education holds is powerful and significant to many aspects of life including society, relationships and personal development; we develop by learning and being educated. Education and the value found in education is somewhat dependent around the individual’s learning experience.

To me, education is learning, knowledge, understanding, developing, experience and adaptation. I believe it is important for the teacher and the children to engage to their full capacity, always; be interested; and for the teacher to have and promote a ‘thirst for knowledge’. To experience valuable education, approaches and attitudes to acknowledge and portray are: mutual respect, equality, consideration, honesty, loyalty, integrity, justice, trust and fairness.

The teacher is the role model to the children he or she is responsible for; if the teacher portrays a thoughtful, considerate and interested attitude, the children will follow this. The responsibility the teacher holds for the learning and development of each child is highly important; the teacher must always ask, ‘what is the impact on learning?’, when he or she goes through the planning and assessing cycle. It is the teacher’s responsibility for the learning and education within the classroom – this is why it is of paramount importance the teacher has his or her own Philosophy of Education.