My Curious Squid Blog will be used for this MOOC as the place to house my reflective learning journal.
Reflection Task 1:
- your previous learning experiences. Think about one particularly successful and one unsuccessful learning experience. Consider what were the conditions that made this experience successful or unsuccessful for you and what this tells you about your own preferred ways to learn.
Interestingly my previous particularly successful and unsuccessful learning experiences occurred in the same space. I was learning beginners Mandarin (Pin Yin) at the local university’s professional development centre. The course was designed specifically as an introductory one – intended to get students familiar with a character language, pronunciation of foreign forms and generally a “getting to know you” experience with the Chinese language.
Learning another language with adult learners in an open entry environment, and one so distinct from English, is a challenge. It raises all kinds of social insecurities and highlights different levels of education, socio-economic status, etc. It is a high risk environment dealing with a high challenge/fail subject matter.
Particularly successful learning experience:
In weeks 1 – 4 we were assigned a language teacher who took the group (20 students) through a gradual introduction to the conceptual meaning behind the individual characters and sought to have us understand the characters before asking us to remember, repeat or pronounce them. She took a casual approach to compliance with participation, allowing those more confident to contribute within the whole group environment, but then paired students off for individual discussion and practice of pronunciation of each character. Often the small group pairings would happen prior to a whole of class pronunciation or writing exercise.
Unsuccessful learning experience:
In weeks 5 – 10 we were assigned a language teacher who undertook a much more authoritarian approach to language teaching. We were given worksheets and instructed to fill in the worksheet, and then instructed to memorise the characters and then repeat pronunciations in a call and reply structure. No explanation of character forms (make-up, history) was provided, no separate group work was undertaken. I withdrew at week 8 – as this had become a socially high risk, high stakes environment with a complex challenging subject matter (with a high fail component).
From this experience I came to understand that I am a learner who learns through understanding. I need to clearly understand the components, what is being done and why. Although I am smart and confident I do not respond well to authoritarian styles/systems of teaching. I need the opportunity to practice “scary” new skills (often physical like pronunciation, rather than intellectual) in a safe and low risk environment.