Enhancing Teaching & Learning Through Purposeful and Productive Thought

[by Karen Sykes]

This linked paper is based on a much longer and more detailed submission for Durham University, which was borne out of reflections on Effective Teaching and Learning (ETL). The paper explores the concepts of productive and purposeful thinking while managing those tricky affective filters with post-16 advanced language learners. However, any colleague from any discipline with a particular interest in ETL and managing the emotional dynamics of classrooms with a view to encouraging depth of learning and eventual success in their discipline (in a more holistic sense) might find the odd nugget within it, or, indeed, a source that they may want to follow up on for themselves.
In essence, the paper’s main pillars are:
·         Facilitating a purposeful classroom ecology for creative thinking;
·         Evaluative thinking for the particular benefit of qualitatively improved spoken and written language;
·         Wise decision-making for the benefit of enhanced debate and academic essay-writing.
Throughout, the object is to provide context and opportunities for empowerment of learning individuals (e.g. through emotionally literate activities which activate a sense of worth, ethical value and mutual appreciation).
The paper aims also to address a series of dilemmas, which include:
·         productive and unproductive beliefs and values;
·         the impact of these on the efficacy of learning and understanding;
·         the mismatch (or congruence) between teacher and learner beliefs;
·         the way in which perceived progress (in what research reviewed suggests students feel counts) can be made to be a cohesive tool;
·       and the need to address the gulf between ‘hard’ science perspectives on language acquisition and the critical role which affective dispositions can be shown to have (even in a modestly sized sample), either by impacting on a sense of personal effectiveness or on undermining learning.

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