Learning and Understanding Now Rather than Later
I was already teaching the seventh theme (analysis of quantitative data) out of ten themes of a social research methodology and practice course when I suddenly wondered if my students were truly learning and/or understanding what I have been teaching for about 20 minutes into my lesson. Let me pause and give you a quick description of a typical class. I present a lecture giving context related examples wherever necessary to explain certain concepts. After this process I ask a few questions to see if my students understand and usually get a resounding ‘yes mam’. Sometimes a few students will ask questions that would require me to clarify and this I appreciate very much, it gives me the sense that my students are following me. However, are they really understanding and is deep learning really taking place during class? This is my biggest concern during this particular class.
Fast forward to the ‘analysis of quantitative data’ class. During the class I asked students if they understand how to draw a frequency table and interpret the findings and as usual the answer was a remarkable ‘yes mam’ from all corners of my classroom. This time around I was in doubt and did not just take their word for it. Instead I decided to give them a formative exercise to see if they indeed understood how to draw a frequency table before they can learn more complex statistical tests. Suddenly, there was panic and confusion in class. Students paged relentlessly through their textbook and argued with each other as they attempted to complete the given exercise. A majority of students only had an idea of what is expected from them. A few students even said to me “we were hoping to ‘revise’ when we got home”. My question to them was, “why learn later when you could learn now? “ About 60 students completed the task and only 3 students managed to get it right. This taught me a very big lesson, instead of waiting for a formal assessment which assesses many skills at once, I should on a weekly basis set aside 15 minutes for doing informal assessments as a way of ensuring that learning and at least some form of knowledge retention takes place during class. Thus learning now rather than later.