Reaching a Higher Level of Learning

All colleges and university courses, including fourth semester courses, should begin with a review of basic theories and concepts. This is a refresher to students and also ensures that all students know the basics. One challenge in curriculum design is building the basic foundations in a progressive manner so that learners reach higher levels of learning.

All educators should be aware of Bloom’s 1956 Taxonomy of Educational Objectives. Fink has taken Bloom’s theory to heart and created a Taxonomy for Identifying Different Kinds of Significant Learning, which is much needed and is a natural growth from Bloom’s work.

Fink’s six-step hierarchy begins with a Foundation, which is acquiring and retaining basic knowledge of a topic. The next step is Application. This is where the learner has the opportunity think or act on the knowledge acquired in Foundation. The next step is Integration, which is connecting ideas, theories, and knowledge from a variety of other topics of knowledge and integrating all of them into new ideas and theories.

From a curriculum design perspective, I have discovered that some teachers often fail to help their students bring in ideas from other courses, or areas of lives, into the subject they are teaching.  Ideally, instructors should speak with other faculty and their students about what they are learning in courses. Helping students “connect the dots” can have a tremendously positive affect.

Fink’s fourth step is called Human Dimension. In this section, the learner begins to connect him or her self to other and “gives human significance to the learning.” This often happens in psychology and sociology courses, but it can occur in any course that has a human element to it.

For example, studying trends in advertising can often connect students to each other, to the product, and perhaps even the medium. Regardless of the topic, it is at this point that learners begin to see how knowledge, theories, and action affect themselves and those around them.

The next step is Motivation, also known as caring. Why should a student care about the material?  What motivates students to learn? For some unlucky individuals, they must take a course they aren’t interested as a requirement to earn a degree; or it could be work related and “the boss told me I had to.”

For an unmotivated learner it is extremely difficult, and perhaps even impossible, to gain significant insights into the topic

Motivations and caring about the topic can be either short or long term. However, once a learn become enthusiastic about a topic, it is up to the teacher to help the student retain and strengthen the motivation.

When a learner deeply cares about the topic, the material presented they begin to immerse themselves in the subject. They care about learning and they are internally motivated to gain as much insight as possible.

The final step is Learning How to Learn. This is a natural progression once a learn care about the topic.  t is at this point that the learner may become a lifelong learner. Many teachers and instructors and have a passion for learning how to learn and try to instill that in their students; however, curriculum designers must first take the students thoroughly through the proceeding steps before this step can be reached.

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