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Phases of Learning

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Saved by fran toomey
on October 5, 2009 at 4:03:31 pm

In SPOKES we recommend helping students move through three phases of learning:  Defining, Practicing, and Contextualing.  This is an adaptation from several models of learning that address the issue of applying or transferring or generalizing knowledge.  You may be familiar with one of these models: the "Declarative-Procedural-Conditional" Model of learning, orginally conceptualized by John Anderson in the 1970-80's or the "Teaching for Understanding" Model of David Perkins developed in the 1990's and updated in Perkin's 2009 Text, Making Learning Whole.


Here's how we think of the DPC Framework.


Students start with Defining WHAT they are learning--a concept, an idea, a fact, a principle, a formula, a process, a strategy, and so forth.  This is an important starting place, although students may not be able to go beyond defining or naming or repeating or telling about the WHAT:  that is, they may not know how to use the knowledge.


In the second phase of learning, Practicing, students begin to explore, with scaffolding or support, how to put this knowledge to work in the form of carrying out a procedure or "practicing" using the knowledge.  With guidance, they may learn a series of steps to apply a concept or idea to a familiar example.  They may apply or practice a formula to a set of practice problems in class.  They may apply a principle to a set of familiar examples.  Initially, students should be working in a controlled situation where the examples or problems have been chosen for them.


In the third phase of learning, Contextualizing, learners are expected to apply Defining and Practicing knowledge to an authentic context in which new examples or new conditions are present.  This is referred to as generalization or "far transfer."  This is often the phase of learning where students have the greatest challenge.  The chasm between "Practicing" knowledge and "Contextualizing" knowledge can be deep and wide.


In SPOKES, we suggest ways to build bridges from Defining to Practicing to Contextualizing phases of learning by using the SEAL Principles The Phases of Learning do not represent a one-way street.  Rather each phase of learning cycles back on previous phases and creates knowledge that is deeper, more interconnected, and more accessible.





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