Teaching for Understanding

Filling the pail

We all want our students to understand what they learn, right? I can’t think of any teacher that does not. However, the idea of teaching for understanding can be problematic and lead us into some serious, and highly popular, misconceptions.

In this post, I will outline what understanding actually is before explaining the best way that we can promote it.

Rote learning

Many teachers are keen to avoid ‘rote’ learning. This is when students memorise facts and procedures without really understanding why they are doing it. It is possible to do this, especially if you practice something a lot like a mathematical procedure. However, memorising facts that have no meaning to you is extraordinarily difficult. This is why memory champions who can memorise the order of a deck of cards, for instance, tend to impose a spurious meaning on it. They may imagine walking through a house and seeing a…

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