Why Deviate from Traditional Educational Methods
When asked why I have invested my life in teaching from a conceptual learning philosophy, I answer with the effects of rote learning on learners, and follow with the point that conceptual learning is meaningful (Fisher, Wandersee & Moody, 2000).
Across my thirty years following a guiding principle, I have witnessed the benefit of conceptual learning on all learners regardless of age. Conceptual learning promotes and fosters areas of intellectual development that rote learning cannot. Conceptual learning enables second language learners to excel beyond their first language peers. (A remarkable feat for a second language learner.) Granted, they are generally slow starters compared with their rote memory peers, but they soon surpass those peers in English and classroom performance within months.
But to get a better grasp of what I'm talking about, you might be interested to see what research has discovered about rote learning.
R.L. develops lack of confidence in students (broers & imbos, 2005 as cited by Hulsizer, Woolf, 2009).
R.L. creates inert knowledge (Folk, 2003).
R.L. deprives learners of the ability to generalize (Strelkauskar, 2009).
R.L. fails to develop self-explanation, a critical skill that enhances learning, (Hulsizer, Woolf, 2009).
R.L fails to develop reasoning and thinking (broers & imbos, 2005 as cited by Hulsizer, Woolf, 2009). Both are essential to long-term academic success . (Hulsizer, Woolf, 2009).
R.L. fails to develop the ability to argue and discover the underlying truths in the problem it answers to (Hulsizer, Woolf, 2009). An argument is a reasoned explanation of why something is true.
R.L. supports the inability to respond to word problems (Hansen, McCann & Myers, 1985; Myers, Robsen & McCann, 1983 as cited by Hulsizer, Woolf, 2009).
R.L. kills learning (West, 2011).
Yet, rote learning (R.L.) earns a star by its capacity to improve recognition (Strelkauskar, 2009), which unfortunately deceives the learner into believing he or she fully understand what is not yet understood simply because it is familiar to the eye or mind, rather than something understandable and explainable.
For 30 years, we have been training students to think like English speakers, and we have assisted them in building their English knowledge from the bottom up focussing only on experimentation while engaging in free thinking activities. This is the kind of learning Strelkauser suggests. Our clients continue to enjoy the fun of learning which only occurs when they are free to analyze, reason, and question why English is done like it is. The result of our practice is thirty years of confident explorers and users of English. This is the goal that Garner (2007) promotes. We believe understanding is the glue that makes any knowledge work for the learner.
The goal of learning is to be confident in discovering answers, being skilled at analysis, being able to explain why the things you see work together the way they do, and most importantly to be confident in our own reasons but open to other reasons that are better than our own. we believe these goals lead to life-time success.