The Secret to Promoting Deeper Learning in the Adult-Ed Classroom
Why do you plan and teach your lessons?
Let me guess: You want to facilitate effective learning. In other words, you want students to master content and skills. Right? But the truth is, your desire to do this is not enough. Why not? Allow me to explain.
Mastering content and skills involves information processing and complex mental tasks, such as reading, thinking, and analyzing, to name a few.
The major challenge is that learners who do not master basic skills and basic information in the adult-ed classroom tend to struggle to do higher order thinking and mental tasks . Really? Yes, really.
My point is, for learners to think critically and complete mental tasks successfully, they must first reach “automaticity” in their use of basic skills, information, and procedures that relate to your content. What is automaticity?
Automaticity is… To quote educational psychologist Dr. Daniel Willingham, “Automaticity is vital in education because it allows us to become more skillful in mental tasks.”
So, what can we do to create automaticity in our students? We can plan regular, consistent, distributed practice sessions that enable students to work on foundational skills and procedures until they reach automaticity. Reaching automaticity will ensure their success when dealing with more complex mental activities in the adult-ed classroom.
Adult-ed classroom examples
For example, your learners will do better in
- Dealing with math problems if they’ve reached automaticity in doing basic operations, the order of operations, and key mathematical concepts
- Accessing scientific texts if they have basic factual knowledge and understand key concepts or terminology
- Reading different types of texts if they already know how to read for comprehension (identifying the main idea, details, author’s intent, and context clues)
- Reading English if they have factual knowledge and understand the ESL lexis that relates to the content at hand
Allow me borrow the words of Dr. Willingham to cement my point: “Those procedures must be learned to the point of automaticity so that they no longer consume working memory space.” In order words, your students will be able to think better and faster if they master basic skills to the point that they can recall them automatically.
Now, let me to ask you: What are you going to do with this information? I urge you to use it to go change your adult students for the best!
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