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Workshop activa: Reflexões sobre as nossas práticas pedagógicas
Dinamizada pela Beverly Trayner, ESCE
Escola Superior de Tecnologia, Barreiro, IPS, Portugal

Here are some of the outcomes of a workshop we did at the School of Technology in Barreiro on the 6th July, 2004. The people who attended were:
Anabela Marques, Bill Williams, Clara Cartos, Eugénia de Jesus Santos, Inês Meireles, Isabel Costa, João Paulo Santos, João Vinagre Santos, Jorge Tiago, Miguel Baio, Miguel Cavique, Otília Dias, Paulo Luz, Paulo Madeira Costa, Pedro Neto, Rodrigo Gonçalves, Rui Gomes, Rui Neves, Vitor Souza and Norberto Albino.

Our main reflection in this workshop was on the question: "What is learning?" How we teach is the result of how we think our students learn - so a critical look at our teaching needs to begin by surfacing our assumptions about learning. In groups we read each others' stories of critical learning moments (written before the workshop) and each group then prepared and presented a poster that represented the answer to our question - what is learning?

I very much enjoyed getting to know colleagues from EST Barreiro and also those colleagues who had come from EST Setúbal to join the workshop. Thanks to everyone!
In the meantime I've added some of my own reflections about the posters and related links.

This first poster reminded me of the words of a writer in education called Burns who sees learning as "a relatively permanent change in behaviour". Behaviour, for Burns, includes both the observable activities and the internal processes such as thinking, attitudes and emotions." (1995:99) He might disagree with our fourth poster as he doesn't believe that learning always manifests immediately. If he's right, it may be difficult to measure (or test) what learning took place at the end of a course. Here is a site which mentions Burns and some other learning theorists.

The second poster, with the "tijolos", represents the classic traditional approach to learning. This approach is contrasted here with the participatory approach. A current trend in pedagogy is to see learning more as a social and/or a problem solving process, where, as ERIC puts it, "rather than a dispenser of knowledge, the teacher is a guide, facilitator, and co-explorer who encourages learners to question, challenge, and formulate their own ideas, opinions, and conclusions. 'Correct' answers and single interpretations are de-emphasized." Learning is represented less by bricks and more by ongoing and changing interactions between people. I have some more links to adult learning sites on my own page.

The third poster looks like a poem called “Learning Window” by James Longenbach:

Morning swoops down on her with words, chews,
Regurgitates. She swallows greedily
But will not sing.
So much to be hungry for.
She dreams of mockingbirds, old women who speak
The minds of others as easily as their own.

I think of how we have to be careful, particularly in our methods of "avaliação", not to encourage students to merely regurgitate information. They may swallow greedily - but it doesn't necessarily help them to sing!

The way the fourth poster emphasizes objectives and learning as an observable outcome made me think of of how writing good learning goals is one of those invisible key teaching competences to which we could pay more attention.

Finally, despite some of our emphatic discussions, we all agreed that these reflections can only be the first step in moving forward our teaching and learning practices - and that we would like to do more for improving both our pedagogy and also in sharing our knowledge and experiences.
Beverly Trayner, Reflections. Last updated: 25th September, 2004