The Teacher's Job When Using Learning By Doing

Teachers should expose students to knowledge. Learning by doing entails trying things out, formulating hypotheses and testing them. But a student cannot do this in a vacuum. The teacher should be there to guide the student to the right experiences. The teacher must also be there to answer students' questions, or at least, to listen to their questions and perhaps suggest ways they could discover the answer themselves. Curiosity comes from trying things out, from failing on occasion, from explaining why, and from trying again.

Good teachers should expose their students to enough situations that the students will become curious enough to take learning into their own hands. In other words, the role of the teacher in a learning-by-doing scenario is to open up interesting problems and to provide tools for solving them when asked by the student to do so. Solving the problem should be its own reward, not getting a grade. The curriculum must be oriented towards, and satisfied with, the idea that students will learn what they need in order to accomplish goals. It is hoped that they will have become curious and acquired both oddball cases and routine scriptlets along the way.

If we abandon the idea of easy measurement of achievement, we can begin to talk about exciting learners with open-ended problems and we can begin to create educational goals such as learning to think for oneself. Of course, such things are hard to measure, but one cannot help but feel that we'll know it when we see it. Under this view, the problem of how we teach, of how education is delivered, becomes far more important than one might initially imagine. Actual content may not be the issue at all since we are really trying to impart the idea that one can deal with new arenas of knowledge if one knows how to learn, how to find out about what is known, and how to abandon old ideas when they are worn out. This means teaching ways of developing good questions rather than good answers.

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