Friday, October 31, 2008

Meaningful Learning from a Personal Experience

David Ausubel, in his theory on meaningful learning says that learners can only learn when they find the lesson to be learned meaningful to them. It’s not only true for elementary and secondary school students but it is equally justifiable to all learners. As for me, being in the field of Mathematics teaching, I find it more important and meaningful to learn Mathematics and teaching related topics than any other agenda. Teaching has been a part of my life and I do it everyday that is why materials related to teaching are so meaningful to me.

When I was in college, I hate this subject called Probability and Statistics. I don’t know whether it was because of my astigmatism which always attacked me those days or it was because of my negative attitude toward those copious data. Honestly, I feel dizzy dealing with those data which I deemed absolutely irrelevant. I could still remember how I stopped answering a certain statistical problem at the middle of the exam. However, I found out that Probability and Statistics is not really irrelevant at all. I did handle plenty of data when I had my undergraduate thesis and used statistical computations a lot when I was in an actual teaching situation doing the marks of my students. Later on, I started to learn statistics by my own for I knew I could not really escape from it. It seems like I am thrown into a lion’s den.

The experiences I had was just so useful in a lesson on Data and Probability I had recently with my fourth graders. The thoughts have helped me to think of strategies how to engage my students in data gathering and analysis. I knew that in their young minds, they would not be able to understand if I would tell them how important the subject matter is in the field of physical sciences, meteorology and business. They are ten-year old kids and lots of them are still up for cartoons, games, TV shows, online battles and all those childish things. So here is the engaging scenario: “I am a cartoon fanatic who wants to know if they also like the cartoon characters that I like. I want to gather data of their favorite cartoon character/s and from it we have to identify which cartoon character is the most popular and least popular among us.”

The students became so excited to tell me who is their most favorite cartoon character. Everybody is raising their hands! The atmosphere became so active and everybody is engaged in the classroom discussion until we reach to the point that we have to analyze the data we have gathered. After the students have learned the ways to gather and organize data, they conducted a survey of their own. They were the one who chose the topic. The following period, they presented the data they have gathered and shared their analysis. They did exactly what I want them to do although there were some problems in the use of language.

It should be a realization of every teacher that teaching is not merely sharing to the students what we have got. As teachers, we should be cognizant of our students’ nature and needs. We have to be aware of their interests. Our students would learn more if they know that their teacher is for them and not against them. What the world needs right now are teachers who have genuine interest to their students. Living in this world is very remarkable and it is even more remarkable when we teach.