Once is Never Enough
Lately I have been thinking about how my outside -of -work life intersects with my working life, and increasingly I am able to draw more and more parallels between the two. Perhaps it is because my job is relatively new to me, and I have, in the same time span, taken up personal training with weights, in addition to running. So I have a huge learning curve both at work and at the gym.
A couple weeks ago I had the most awesome time hosting a webinar with author , educator and researcher, Ellin Oliver Keene (Talk About Understanding, Heinemann, 2012.) In this webinar session we were having a conversation about the importance of modeling dialogue and discourse with students, over, and over and over again. She explained that too often in the classroom because teachers feel pressure to move on, students do not get the opportunity to see, hear and learn the same message, over and over again. Rarely do students successfully transfer a skill they have learned after only seeing and hearing it once.
Later that week in the gym, working with my personal trainer, he explained he was going to show me a new exercise. He was honest when he said, “and you will probably not do it correctly this time, but after practicing, you will begin to do the exercise with more and more accuracy.” I thought about the new exercises I had learned in the last two years, and how often he would explain to me, then show me, then have me try. And even when I had successfully demonstrated the proper technique and form, he did not assume I had mastered the exercise.
We are constantly striving for mastery, using explanation, demonstration or modeling, and practice. Even once we move on to something else, the new exercise becomes part of the routine to be practiced, so that the skills learned can be applied to a still newer exercise and routine later on.
“You are a really good teacher,” I told him the other day,” you continually find ways to show the proper technique while connecting the new skill to what I already know.”
And so it is with teaching any new skill. It is not enough to tell or show once, and expect learning and tansfer of knowledge to occur. It takes modeling and practice, over and over again to get it right.