I’m really excited about today’s lesson. The holistic learning system takes a love of learning and a love of wisdom and transforms difficult concepts into obvious concepts.
I believe that any student applying the holistic system to education will do great. But I also understand that most students will not even attempt to try this out.
Which is why I believe that a tutor or teacher who encourages, enlightens, (and maybe forces!) students to adopt this system can have just as positive an affect on student understanding and grades.
If you hate reading (don’t worry, even though I love reading, I can understand your point of view), I have a video presentation that will cover similar topics that I talk about. After the break, I continue my discussion of AT and his holistic learning approach.
Now, don’t get me wrong, you do not need to have a problem to want to introduce a student to this method of learning, but AT absolutely had a problem.
Problem #1 – Low grades
AT consistently scored in the bottom of his class in math. This was not a new thing. It’s not like he woke up one day and was terrible at school. Normal things like carrying 1′s, adding fractions, and calculating circumference were difficult for him.
Now, AT is no dummy. He just didn’t ‘get it’.
Problem #2 – Low motivation
These low grades really screwed up AT’s motivation. No human is perfect, and AT’s teachers have been dealt difficult cards. One the one hand, there is a boy who doesn’t do well on tests and who guesses on homework assignments. But the side that they did not see, the side that I saw every week for a year, was a boy who really, really, really wanted to understand the math, but for some reason, could not.
The Holistic Learning Solution
To stave off these grades and to try and increase AT’s confidence, I spent a month splitting time between teaching the lesson of the day (he did have homework and tests, after all) and teaching the principles behind the holistic learning system.
I taught him that acquiring knowledge is important, and that his current methods (try to read a book, listen to a teacher) where pretty inadequate. And it’s true. If you cannot get the knowledge from the pages, mouths, or speakers into your brain, we are at a standstill.
So what did we do? We focused on homework problems instead of text, on using examples instead of reading theory. In order to get the knowledge into AT’s brain, we skipped the knowledge. And went straight for the brain.
This worked in geometry because the textbook did not teach him exactly what he needed to know. And his grades did not come from theoretical knowledge, but rather from problem solving.
Does that mean he simply learned rote? Not at all.
While trying to solve problems, we focused on the “why this is important” more than the “what am I supposed to do”. We did that by understanding what the formulas, processes, and operations meant. Yes, Sine = Opposite/Hypotenuse, but really, what the heck does that mean?
Our first step involved solving problems (taking care of his homework and his grade) because, while I don’t think grades are important, once AT started getting A’s and B’s on his tests and homework assignments, his disposition to trying my methods increased. In addition, his confidence all around improved dramatically.
It was pretty sweet.
So, we focused on the second step of the holistic method, understanding. By focusing on each of the parts while trying to figure out each question, AT was able to very quickly do questions on his own and even do questions that I created by mixing ideas, numbers, and processes.
Which really does lead to the next point about this holistic method. Linking involves taking what we know and finding similarities and links with something we are trying to learn. In the video I link parallel lines to railroad tracks. While it is obvious that railroad tracks are not actually parallel lines, the principle is very important for understanding.
Likewise, whenever AT faced a new concept – Soh-Cah-Toa, Slope, Mirror images, 3D – we tried as hard as we could to find real-world instances or links between his knowledge and what we are learning. The longest distance in a rectangular solid is not along the base, but a diagonal line from one corner of the room to the other corner of the room. These observations and ideas, coupled with many, many practice problems and quizzes testing different iterations of the same problems, ensured AT high grades.
But obviously, our linking method is not without flaws. Railroad tracks are not parallel, after all. So we would sit down for a few minutes at the beginning of each lesson to review last weeks linking exercise and see if we could debug the ideas that we kind of understand, but totally created incorrect analogies for.
AT actually really liked this, because it gave him something to think about throughout the week. He would say, “I don’t think railroad tracks are parallel, because the twist and turn and flip and curve”. And of course, I’d say, “Right on, dude.”
See, debugging our misconceptions is essential for fully formed understanding. And being forced to debug, that is, having ideas that are not 100% perfect, is a really good thing in this world. Being forced to only understand the absolute correct method causes stress, fear, frustration, and misunderstanding.
It creates a world where students are never good enough, where parents are never satisfied, and where teachers are just looking to mark you down. In this kind of world, students fear making mistakes. But making mistakes is essential for learning.
Making mistakes, misunderstanding ideas, and working through trial and error enhances creativity. It enhances productivity. And it encourages effort. And putting a specific time to debug into our curriculum encourages each student to try harder than the student who is constantly afraid of failure.
But of course, no idea is complete without real-world application. If you cannot apply the knowledge you gain, what is the point. With math, it’s easy. We created some really cool visualizations and measured certain dangerous jumps from roofs to pools. With disciplines like computer science or engineering, it’s even easier to apply what you learn – you can build a program or make a robot or something.
And that’s the point. Students freak out because “this will never be used in real life.” And honestly, if it’s not used, what’s the point? (What’s the point? For some greater ideal? For the pursuit of knowledge? You don’t need to go to college for that. Buy a book, it’s easy and you won’t be straddled with debt.)
But of course, application is the final phase in our holistic system. Without application, there is no hope.
So, how have you applied this in your life as a student, teacher, or adviser? If you liked this, please share, tweet, and comment below. Thanks.[fbshare type="button" float="left"]