A group of teachers and researchers from the Harvard Graduate School of Education collaborated to form the Teaching for Understanding (TFU) Project. According to Active Learning Practices for School, they had a mutual belief that students nowadays are not receiving the kind of education they need. Recently, grades have become the new focus of education instead of understanding. Grades are neither the only nor the most important measuring stick of learning.
The importance of education is seen in what students understood from their classes and will continue to take and use for their entire lives. TFU encourages teachers to ask themselves what topics are worth understanding and are also significant to students. Further, how should they be taught and how should one practice understanding-assessment? In Active Learning Practices for School, TFU gives four criteria that will help educators use out-of-the-box teaching methods and create classroom environments that are conducive to understanding.
First, teachers should make learning relevant to students’ interests and experience and push for student-lesson engagement. Second, they must create and share with students the important goals of the lesson. Third, they must allow students to demonstrate their understanding through activities that require them to use knowledge they have gained in new ways, such as making floor plans to show their understanding of geometry. Lastly, assessment is not a one time, big time deal.
It must always be ongoing and students ought to receive constant feedback on their performance. Understanding is beyond definition memorization, and solving problems with formulae. For Perkins, one must be able to perform a variety of thought-demanding activities and react or solve new situations with what he or she knows. Understanding is having the ability to use one’s knowledge flexibly and creatively. A person who truly understands discovers innovative ways of using knowledge, and new information that further enriches to his or her knowledge.
Active Learning Practices for School. Harvard University. 2008. 9 Dec. 2008 <http://learnweb. harvard. edu/ALPS/tfu/info. cfm>. —–. “What is Understanding? A Deeper Look. ” Harvard University. 2008. 9 Dec. 2008 <http://learnweb. harvard. edu/ALPS/tfu/info1b. cfm>. Perkins, David. “Teaching for Understanding. ” Exploratorium. 1993. 9 Dec. 2008 <http://www. exploratorium. edu/IFI/resources/workshops/teachingforunderstanding. html>.