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Important learning and teaching events

Prepared by John Church, PhD, School of Educational Studies and Human Development

University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand.

Distinctions between the events which do (and do not) affect learning are absolutely critical if we are to develop a science of learning and teaching. Little or no progress was made in any of the established sciences until the “basic units” of the subject matter had been identified.

The same will be true in our attempts to develop a “science of learning”. Each of the different types of change currently subsumed under the heading “learning” will need to be identified, defined, and given an agreed name. Secondly, each of the events which are found to be a necessary condition for, or to have an affect upon, one of these types of change will also need to be identified, defined and given an agreed name. Only if this can be achieved will different groups of researchers be able to work cooperatively on the task of identifying the conditions necessary for each different type of learning and to communicate with each other regarding the results of their many experiments.

In Book 2 we will begin the task of identifying the many distinctions which appear to be necessary if we are to make any kind of progress in our attempts to identify the conditions which do and do not affect learning.

In Chapter 1 we define learning and identify some of the more important changes which are subsumed under the term “learning”.

Chapter 2 lists the kinds of curriculum goals which teachers are expected to work towards and makes the observation that most of these are very poorly defined. In Chapter 3 we begin the task of identifying the important learning outcomes which are hidden inside some of these curriculum goals.

In Chapter 4 we identify the three-term learning interaction as a basic unit of analysis and list many of the antecedent events, variations in practice responses, and consequences (response outcomes) which have been found, as a result of experimentation, to affect attention, motivation, and the acquisition and retention of new responses. In Chapter 5, we list some of the ways in which learning interactions and their component events can be sequenced by teachers (and learners) in their attempts to acquire and master new skills and understandings.