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February 14, 2019

Professional Learning Series: Awareness

What is Awareness?

Merriam-Webster’sDefinition of  awareness:

the quality or state of being “aware”: knowledge and understanding that something is happening or exists

The Teaching Channel Professional Learning model describes awareness as, “Analyzing prior knowledge and experiences related to the topic.” If we meld this idea with Merriam-Webster’s definition of awareness, we can begin to understand the importance of knowing and understanding that the learner already has knowledge or experience that exists specific to the topic at hand. Why is that important? Well, let’s check out the research!

What does research say about professional learning and awareness?

How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School(National Academy Press, 2001), based on the National Research Council’s report on learning science, includes four interrelated elements which include learner-centeredness. Learner-centeredness means creating learning environments that, “… attempt to help students make connections between their previous knowledge and their current academic tasks.” (Bransford, Brown and Cocking, 2008)

Andragogy, the art and science of adult learning, includes the idea that adult learners have accumulated experiences that can be a resource for continued learning.

Adult learners can, and should, draw on their prior knowledge and experiences related to the topic. To do that, the participant must increase awareness of prior knowledge and experiences directly related to the topic and/or learning goals. Research indicates that this level of awareness increases the chance new knowledge is solidified and connected to previous experiences and prior knowledge.

How can you increase awareness in your professional learning offerings?

At Learners Edge, professional learning participants take inventory and analyze what they know and have experienced through a variety of activities. In their reflections, participants are asked to make sense of these connections and describe the impact the connections had on reaching their learning goals. While we’ve built these components into our courses, we want to give you three strategies to help you increase awareness with your professional learning participants!

Teacher PD

Strategy#1:Socratic Teaching

Socratic teaching is a method using a logical sequence of questions directed at learners meant to allow them to respond and share their existing knowledge. It can be used with children and teens, but it also works well when teaching adult learners. When a facilitator uses this method, the learner must tap into their stored knowledge and life experiences to respond, thus increasing their awareness. Additionally, the questions and formulation of responses help the learner create rather than regurgitate knowledge. Finally, it helps actively engage learners which we know is imperative to increasing achievement.

Laughing over books cropped

Strategy#2:Storytelling

Storytelling is a type of narrative learning. In narrative learning, adult learners can link their life experiences with the content to make meaning. This helps the learner identify where their value systems and experiences line up with new concepts being taught and helps them see their role specific to the content, thus creating awareness. Storytelling encourages participants to look more deeply into their position within the narrative specific to family, organizations, cultures, social, and cultural structures which increases understanding and engagement with course content. When using storytelling, it is imperative that the goal is related to the course objectives.

Storytelling can take place in a physical classroom, but it can also be part of an online learning environment through chat rooms and/or discussion forums by providing prompts for participants to respond to or questions for them to answer. Videos can also be uploaded to tell stories and increase the personal feel of the story. Additionally, teachers or facilitators can provide stories to encourage engagement and connection with course concepts as adult learners link new knowledge to past experiences.

World Experience

Strategy #3: Experiences!

Allowing adult learners the opportunity to make use of their stored knowledge and background during learning experiences also increases their awareness. Experiential strategies can include discussion, simulation, case studies, and problem solving. As an example, adult learners working through this poverty simulation will have the opportunity to bridge the gap between their misconceptions and reality to increase understanding. To work through the simulation, participants would need to tap into what they know and have already experienced, thus building awareness.

Armed with these three strategies, it is our hope that you can help your adult learners become more aware of how their prior knowledge and past experiences can impact and improve their new learning!

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