When I started as a lecturer, it seemed to me that the job involved teaching students about Geography, and it was made easy because most of the students seemed to want to learn about Geography. I was selling what they wanted to buy. There was an item on the news this week that gave me a nice label to illustrate something that now feels different. The item was about the way that people who have accidents and get injured while they are drunk can have the error of their drunken ways pointed out effectively to them by medical staff while they are being stitched back together, because at that moment they are particularly open, or susceptible, to advice. It is what is called a “teachable moment”. What occurred to me was that whereas in the imaginary good old days we spent our time teaching students who were eager to learn, nowadays we spend it engineering teachable moments: points at which the students, who generally are closed and impervious to learning, might be tricked into it. Of course I’m putting this in an unduly negative way. It might not be that the students have changed so much, and it might not be that they are really closed and impervious. The idea of finding or creating “teachable moments”, though, is a useful one as I embark on the redevelopment of courses for next year. How can we help students to learn? By creating Teachable Moments for them.
Note: This post was originally posted in my other blog at http://petergknight.wordpress.com in April 2010 and transferred to Blank Atlas as I moved my Geography posts into one location.