Author Archives: Paul Reimer

Teachers as Learners, Learners as Teachers

In my previous post, I wrote about the ways teachers might engage with children during play. In particular, I highlighted Brent Davis’ explanation: “The teacher becomes a vital part of the action. Immersed in the play, the teacher too is a learner.” This post continues these ideas, with several specific references to readings that take up similar ideas.

Just this last week I reread some of Dewey’s work. In Experience and Education, Dewey wrote:

We can and do supply ready-made “ideas” by the thousand; we do not usually take much pains to see that the one learning engages in significant situations where his own activities generate, support, and clinch ideas—that is, perceived meanings or connections. This does not mean that the teacher is to stand off and look on; the alternative to furnishing ready-made subject matter and listening to the accuracy with which it is reproduced is not quiescence, but participation, sharing, in an activity. In such shared activity, the teacher is a learner, and the learner is, without knowing it, a teacher—and upon the whole, the less consciousness there is, on either side, of either giving or receiving instruction, the better. (emphasis added)

While resonating with Davis’ description of the teacher as a learner alongside children, Dewey’s particular reference to participation implies that teachers and students coexist in learning environments. In activity–such as children’s play–there is the potential to enter into a participatory relationship that brings about new ways of thinking and action. In their work on situated learning, Lave and Wenger described several ways learning as participation confronts prior ideas about cognitive learning

Learning as increasing participation in communities of practice concerns the whole person acting in the world. Conceiving of learning in terms of participation focuses attention on ways in which it is an evolving, continuously renewed set of relations… between…agent and world, activity, meaning, cognition, learning, and knowing.

The notion of participation thus dissolves dichotomies between cerebral and embodied activity, between contemplation and involvement, between abstraction and experience: persons, actions, and the world are implicated in all thought, speech, knowing, and learning.

Engaging with children during play can be seen as, again as Davis described, “a participatory sort of teaching” that forms a mutual learning experience for both teachers and students. Teachers become learners, and learners become teachers.

References:

Dewey, J. (1938). Experience and education. Simon and Schuster.

Lave, J., & Wenger, E. (1991). Situated learning: Legitimate peripheral participation. Cambridge University Press.

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Participating in Play

One of our primary ways of working with preschool teachers and children has been to consider together the ways children learn through play. “Play” itself is not an easy concept to define – and perhaps attempts to define it limit its potential. What is considered play for one may not be considered play for another.… Continue Reading

Turning to Conversation

“I believe we can change the world if we start listening to one another again…Simple, truthful conversation where we each have a chance to speak, we each feel heard, and we each listen well.” -Margaret Wheatley Teaching requires reflective conversation–before, during, and after. In this short blog post, I’d like to share a few quotes… Continue Reading

In Their Voices (Part 1)

In his pivotal work, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Paulo Freire described the importance of the human voice in dialogue: Human existence cannot be silent, nor can it be nourished by false words, but only by true words, with which men and women transform the world. To exist, humanly, is to name the world, to change… Continue Reading

Voice

Last September, I wrote a blog entry about the importance of partnership in our work with teachers. I described how we understand that each teacher, teacher aide, director, and researcher brings a set of understandings and experiences to this work and that these can contribute to a rich, fruitful interaction. If you read the blog… Continue Reading

Play is Risk-Tolerant

I recently read the following claim in a piece from the creative folks at KQED Mindshift: “Up to 70 percent of the tasks in most jobs are on track to be automated, leaving only the most creative, empathetic, technically fluent, collaborative work for humans. Students need to find motivation and meaning, and take a playful… Continue Reading

Learning is Moving in New Ways

I recently attended the Psychology of Mathematics Education conference in Indianapolis. While at the conference, I participated in several sessions with a workgroup that is interested in exploring how the ways we move our bodies influence our cognition. This concept of embodied cognition theorizes how learning to move in new ways can form the basis… Continue Reading

Partnership

Our early math team is excited to be engaging with preschool teachers in thinking together about mathematics teaching and learning in preschool classrooms. One of the ways we have structured our work together is through the lens of partnership. Think for a moment about what it means to work as a partner. What comes to… Continue Reading

Teaching is Listening

Last week, our Early Math Team here at the AIMS Center partnered with Fresno EOC Head Start to spend a day devoted to children’s mathematics. I had the privilege of sharing a few thoughts at the beginning of the day to help shape our time and work together over the coming year. In this keynote,… Continue Reading

Idea Generators

I just returned from two weeks of study at Michigan State University as part of my PhD program in Education. My study related to qualitative research purposes and methodologies. I gained experience in writing field notes, conducting interviews, collecting data, and describing and analyzing observations. Although much of this work requires taking notes, this is… Continue Reading