October 2017 Reflection

What is Learning?

  1. Scott Flynn, M. Ed.

Otte-Blair Middle School

Author Note

Scott Flynn, Department of Science, Otte-Blair Middle School.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to A. Scott Flynn,

Department of Science, Otte-Blair Middle School, Blair, NE 68008.

Contact: scott.flynn@blairschools.org

 PageBreakWhat is Learning?

I asked my students this question: “What is learning?” Before I let them answer, I explained that I am taking a class and working on my masters to improve my teaching skills. We had a short discussion about why I went back to school and how I was learning think about my teaching, much like I wanted them to think about their learning. Students were surprised that a teacher would go back to school, after all “You are in school Mr. Flynn.” After the discussion, I gave them a few minutes to thing about the question I posed. I had them submit their answer using Google Forms.

Smith (1998) states that learning is a “social activity” yet none of my students stated anything about the social aspect of learning, in fact they more often stated ideas more closely related to “The official theory” (Smith, 1998) Below is a Wordle (Wordle Create, 2017):

After the students answer the question, I asked them this, “What letter grade means you are smart? The responses were very interesting. Most said an A. So then I asked if a student works really hard on taking notes, attending study sessions, reviews and gets a D on a test, what does that mean? Most said the student didn’t get the content, therefore the student “didn’t get any smarter.” Next I ask, “so if I take that same student and put him/her with the student who received an A, an asked them to preform a lab over the concept that was on the test what do you think would happen? Most agreed the student with the lower grade would raise their grade. I asked why? They said they could share ideas and help each other with the lab. So I asked if the student with the lower grade demonstrated an understanding on the content in the lab did he/she learn? At this point, I could see the students really thinking about how they were going to answer the question. One student stated that “maybe the student needed to do the lab to better understand” At that moment, I thought of the constructivist approach which my student had just pointed out to me. According to Brooks & Brooks (2001), students need “raw data and primary sources, along with manipulative, interactive, and physical materials.” in order to understand new concepts. The lab provided that, but also it provides a social aspect to the learning process.

A Special Day

As I look at things through the lens of this course, I have started to see the students in a different light, especially the social side of education. In particular, how students still have an amazing capacity to help those who need a little extra help. Every year, I grow pumpkins for my son who is autistic and for Mrs. Fowler’s self-contained special education class. Mrs. Fowler teaches students who have special needs, and every year my homeroom students help me deliver pumpkins. We go out to my truck and my students help carry in twenty plus pumpkins for those students in Mrs. Fowler’s room. As they drop off the pumpkins, I see smiles, I see caring students, I see students wanting to help others, I see compassion and understanding. I see the true meaning of community.


Brooks, J. G., & Brooks, M. G. (2001). In Search of Understanding. The Case for Constructivist Classrooms. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, Inc.

Smith, F. (1998). The Book of Learning and Forgetting. New York, New York: Teacher College Press.

Wordle Create. (2017). Retrieved from Wordle: http://www.wordle.net/

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s