The information in this post comes from Albert Ziegler, an internationally accredited researcher based in Germany. I share it with you in the hopes that our South African teachers may benefit from the knowledge and pass it on to their learners.
Young learners can’t be expected to know how to learn by themselves. The teaching approach in many of our schools still results in children trying to memorise content – without true understanding or critical judgement of the material.
Mastering a cognitive learning strategy is valuable for most learners. This might involve the steps of (1) Rehearsal, by repeating learning material; (2) Organisation of the material by restructuring the content in a form that is easier to memorise, and (3) Elaboration, or integrating the new knowledge into existing learning structures. Examples of this would be thinking through new material and evaluating it, or using own words and being able to teach it to others.
But research shows that teaching only cognitive strategies results in a limited effect on academic achievement. When metacognitive strategies are taught as well, the effect is much more positive.
Metacognitive strategies include the steps of (1) Planning – learning how to set goals, knowing what resources to use; (2) Monitoring – involving continuous assessment of own learning, and (3) Evaluation, which requires analysis of one’s own performance and the effectiveness of the learning method used.
Using metacognitive strategies requires the early teaching of skills, one of which is called ‘self-regulated behaviour.’
Self-regulation includes being able to reflect about your own learning, to understand your strengths, weaknesses and as a result, be able to set your own realistic goals. This may be as important as acquiring new content knowledge and some of you may be surprised that children in Grades 2 or 3 are already capable of learning how to do this. It certainly is a critical learning strategy that can stand them in good stead throughout their school years and beyond.
To my mind, these aspects of learning are as critical, if not more, than the content of the current curriculum. It is truly much more important to teach children how to learn rather than spending too much of their time learning what to learn.
Integrated Learning Therapy (ILT) practitioners have tried hard over the years to encourage schools to introduce more movement into classrooms. We understand the terrible pressure put on teachers and learners by curriculum demands, so have worked with pre-school teachers, believing that they have more classroom time to devote to all-important movement. Imagine our disappointment when we heard from one school that had followed our movement programme with their Grade R learners for some years – with noted success – that they were obliged to stop the programme. The reason was that they now have to use that time to teach the preschoolers how to read.
This is doubly sad because not only are those children missing out on the chance to ‘catch up’ on any possible areas of delayed brain development, they are also missing out on vital time spent moving. There is much written these days about the value of movement and the positive impact that physical activity has on academic learning. With this knowledge, there should be no doubt that introducing movement into classrooms is worthwhile.
To our knowledge, many teachers are trying hard to do this, so I thought some information about the latest research might help justify their efforts. Also, some information about different types of movement might be helpful to get maximum benefit in the shortest possible time. Before discussing the research into different physical movement strategies, this article will briefly discuss ‘mindful movement’ versus ‘non-mindful movement’.
Mindful movement (also called ‘purposeful movement’) is referred to when physical activities are integrated directly with learning goals. For example, when children form the letters of the alphabet with their bodies, or illustrate the orbits of the planets by walking around a central sun. The quality of the movement is less important than the fact that learners are focusing on academic content. Movement is used here as a tool for reaching teaching goals.
Non-mindful movement is physical activity that is unrelated to academics. Examples would be running on the spot, running around the playground before a lesson, sitting on a wobbly cushion, pushing legs against a length of elastic tied around the chair legs, and so on.
In other words, mindful movement uses movement activities to teach and learn directly; non-mindful movement does not.
Generally, research shows that both types of movement can benefit learning. Teachers (and school administrators) may fear that movement takes time away from teaching and so will interfere with academic performance. The evidence gathered in recent years indicates that these fears are groundless. Learners benefit in more ways than one and a responsive brain results in more efficient learning.
To help teachers understand more about the value of movement for learning, the next few posts will share some of these research studies.
Integrated Learning Therapy (ILT) tries to help children reach their potential by addressing all the possible barriers to learning. Visit our website www.ilt.co.za to learn more about our approach, find a practitioner near you to help and also see what courses we offer for teachers to better understand brain development, function and learning. Our courses are accredited with SACE (for CPTD points) and ETDP-SETA (for credits towards further qualifications in Special Needs Education).
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In last week’s post, it was explained that there is a difference between sight and vision. Having good eyesight means that the eye is doing its job well and is able to clearly see the world both near and far. This is what optometrists look for when children have their eyesight tested.
Vision, on the other hand, depends on how the eyes function as directed by the brain and also how children use the information from the eyes. This means that they have to be able to correctly interpret the information reaching the brain from the eyes.
The first category covers some of the visual abilities mentioned last week, such as fusing two images from each eye into a single, clear image (binocular fusion); being able to shift focus quickly between near and far images (accommodation); to be able to stablise the eyes so that they can locate a target and ‘fix’ that on the retina so that it is seen in sharp focus (fixation) and to be able to move the eyes along a sequence of numbers, letters or words (ocular motility or ‘tracking’).
The second category encompasses visual perception. This includes several abilities that are necessary for schoolwork:
Figure-ground perception: This is the ability to separate targeted images from surrounding ‘clutter’. For example, being able to discern
Direction in space: Being able to see the difference between letters that go up or down, left or write. For example, the difference between b and d.
Form perception: The ability to realise differences in shape, as for example, the shapes of letters.
Visual-motor coordination: The ability to coordinate body movements with visual information. For example, hand writing, copying, catching balls.
Visual imagery: The ability to picture an image in the mind’s eye. For example, to mentally picture a spelling word.
Visual-verbal match: The ability to match what we hear with what we see. For example, forming a mental picture of what is described as we read.
These perceptual abilities develop with age. Some children may not be ‘visually ready’ when they begin school and as a result, will ‘observe less, remember less, learn less, and in general be less efficient in what they do’ (From the book 20/20 is not enough, by Dr A.S. Seiderman and Dr S.E. Marcus).
Some of these children will learn to read but others may struggle as a result of developmental or perceptual lags. They may become labelled as having learning difficulties. So if a child is struggling at school, don’t only think of having eyesight tested. While good eyesight is crucial, there are other, important aspects of vision to be considered.
Integrated Learning Therapy (ILT) considers everything that may impact a child’s ability to thrive in school. Visit our website www.ilt.co.za to learn more about our approach. We list practitioners who may be able to help and we list courses that we offer. These courses, accredited with SACE and ETDP-SETA, offer CPTD points and credits towards further qualifications in Special Needs education. They can be studied over distance.
You are welcome to write to us for further information at firstname.lastname@example.org.