Metaphors of learning page numbers - Learning Essay Example

William and Colomb asserts that the linear models of development, such as those of Jean Piaget, William Perry, and Lawrence Kohlberg “seem to impose order on the more puzzling patterns of student behavior” (p - Metaphors of learning page numbers introduction.217).  This type of linear progression characterized by increasing and improving knowledge from the lower left towards the upper right, assumes that a learner is constantly progressing from concrete to abstract thinking or from dualism to relativism, in one smooth curve.  This metaphor also assumes that a learner who fails to perform at the expected level has “regressed” and the teacher, according to William and Colomb, assumes that “whoever taught the student at the ‘lower level’… did not do the job right” (p. 218).

The metaphor of a novice entering a community is more productive.  This metaphor sets the teacher to expect novice behavior.  With this metaphor, William and Colomb asserts, the teacher can “predict a number of ‘concrete,’ ‘immature’ forms of behavior” (p. 222).  With this prediction, the teacher can better assess the knowledge of the novice.  Rather than being distracted by the concrete and immature manifestations of the learner’s lack of exposure to the new field and judging these as manifestations of failure of prior teachers,  the teacher can anticipate this as part of the learning process.  Thereby the teacher can prepare the quantity and quality of learning necessary for the student to progress.

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In this sense, the metaphor of a novice entering a community is more productive as it lessens the wrong assumption and excessive expectations of the teacher when teaching a novice.  Moreover, it prepares the teacher to anticipate immature and concrete behavior which might otherwise be considered as unacceptable.  With this anticipation, the teacher is better equipped to teach the novice.

In order to better emphasize the metaphor of an outsider entering a community, William and Colomb uses the term novice rather “lower level thinkers.”  In their metaphor of a learner joining a community, they argue that “the outsider must acquire knowledge from the insiders, usually through some form of apprecenticeship” (p.221).  The outside, may be a high level thinker in some other field, but by all accounts, a novice in the community he is entering.

To exemplify this argument, William and Colomb cite the chemistry professors, who answered problems regarding the agricultural problems of the Soviet Union.  The professors, who are no low level thinkers, were found to have “behaved in ways similar to the low-knowledge novices” (p. 220).  In the case of the chemistry experts, they fit right in with the metaphor of the outsider entering a community.  Thus, the term novice is more appropriate, rather than “low level thinker.”

The use of the word “novice” is not only politically correct, it also highlights better the idea of the outsider entering a community.  William and Colomb also cites examples of novice learners, two law students, and a freshman undergraduate student, all of whom high level thinkers who exhibit behavior of novices.  All three examples show how teachers assessed the novices as low level thinkers.

By assessing the students as low level thinkers, rather than as novices, the teachers behave and teach with the growth metaphor in mind.  William and Colomb argues that “metaphors influence not only how we think about experience, but how we deal with it” (p. 216).  Thus, by labeling students as low level thinkers, rather than the novices that they are, the teacher treats and teaches as if her students have regressed, rather than providing them with knowledge that would make them progress from novices to experts.

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