My Journal: #1 “Teaching without learning is just talking”


“Teaching cannot occur without learning; teaching without learning is just talking.”  (Barley, 2010, p. 16)

Objective: Barkley (2010), in her book Student Engagement Techniques: A Handbook for College Faculty shares a personal story of how her colleague teased her “Saying I taught students something, they just didn’t learn it” is akin to saying “I sold them a car, they just didn’t buy it” (p. 16). She re-emphasizes this point with a quote from Angelo and Cross (1993, p. 3) that “learning can—and often does – occur without teaching, but teaching cannot occur without learning; teaching without learning is just talking” (as cited in Barley, 2010, p. 16). The idea of student’s success resting significantly on an educator’s efforts and responsibility is portrayed loud and clear in this statement.

Reflective: Wow! When I came across this quote, it had such an immediate and profound effect on me as an educator. Of course I have always been very motivated to help students learn, and have endeavoured to do my very best to help them, but I haven’t ever considered that if a student is unsuccessful that it is so profoundly related to my efforts! I hadn’t thought it was entirely up to me as the educator. What happens if I can’t engage my students? How can I ensure that I am not just “talking”, but actually teaching?

Interpretive: Early on in my career, whenever I was invited to be a guest lecturer, I would prepare my lecture through diligent reading and research on the topic, create a PowerPoint presentation and handout, and present it to my students. I did not possess any formal education in andragogy, the art and science of teaching adult learners, and realize now that what I was doing was essentially just talking, and not truly teaching. I was just muddling through teaching, a term Brookfield uses to describe how teachers proceed through situational challenges they experience through their career” (2006, p. 2-3). Over the years, I have transitioned from standing at the front of the class and lecturing to that of an educator who is learning how to incorporate a greater variety of learning activities and teaching strategies into the classroom setting to engage students more actively in learning. In my post-graduate studies, I learned about educational theories and teaching methodologies, and how pedagogy, specifically andragogy, has significantly evolved over the past few decades. The traditional method of teaching, whereby the student was the passive receiver of information and the teacher was the transmitter of education is no longer upheld as an effective method of learning.

Contemporary andragogy supports that adult learners construct new knowledge and meaning based on their interaction between their experiences and ideas. This is known as constructivism, a cognitive learning theory based on Piaget and Vygotski’s work, which places the learner in the active role of constructing meaning from interactions with his or her environment (Vandeveer, 2009; Wenger, 2009). It seems prudent then that teachers need to create learning environments that both connect new information they present to students’ previous experiences and encourages their active exchange of ideas and involvement in order to help them construct new meaning. In order for teachers to say they are teaching, student learning through personal sense making and construction needs to take place. Well, how I can make this happen?

In chapters 1-3 of her book, Barkley (2010) discusses the critical need for educators to engage students in learning, noting that the greater the student’s engagement in academic work, the greater his/her acquisition of new knowledge and cognitive development. To clarify, the term student engagement refers to the students’ “participation of effectively educational practices, both inside and out of the classroom, which leads to a range of measurable outcomes” (Harper & Quaye, 2009, p. 2-3). Barley’s quote of “teaching without learning is just talking” (2010, p. 16) emphatically helped me realize that a paradigm shift has occurred, with the onus for student engagement now re-focused toward educators and administrators of educational institutions. After much reading, I believe that fostering student engagement is a shared responsibility among everyone.

Fostering a high level of student engagement both in and out of the classroom has been shown to result in significant gains and positive outcomes for student learning such as: increases in cognitive, intellectual, moral, ethical, and psychosocial development; positive image of self; higher academic achievement; retention; and college adjustment (Harper & Quaye, 2009). Barkley’s Venn diagram model of student engagement on page 6 of her text illustrates how a student’s motivation and active learning synergistically work together to create and increase student engagement (2010).

How can I as a teacher influence and set up students for learning success? I have learned a lot through this course’s suggested readings and my active involvement in the course forum discussions these past two weeks! I realize now that I need to deliberately create a sense of classroom community whereby my students and I see themselves as members of a learning community and partners in the learning process (Barley, 2010). Very importantly, I need to teach students metacognitive skills by incorporating activities in the classroom that actively help them monitor and control their own learning processes (Barkley, 2010). I also need to create learning opportunities that help students work at their optimal level of challenge, whereby I expose them to situations and learning activities that are just slightly above their current level. Additionally, I need to plan for and include realistic and frequent assessment and feedback that is always authentic to their learning. Understanding what motivates each student will also help me to set up conditions in my classroom that enhance their eagerness to learn (Barkley, 2010). Clearly, there are countless instructional strategies that can assist me to become an effective teacher that results in student learning. I am excited to try out many of the ones I’ve learned to date in this course, including flipped classrooms, the critical incident questionnaire, use of learning styles inventories, case studies, and split class debates to name a few.

Decisional: As an educator, I now see the immense importance and value in not just talking to teach, but rather fully engaging students in active learning. I have never taught students metacognition skills, and am keen to engage students in a more productive and self-determined way of learning that essentially involves their mind, body, and soul.

Although I do not currently teach a specific course, I do coordinate students’ service-learning opportunities, orient them to community sites, and instruct them in the clinical setting and out in the community. When given the chance, I feel much more prepared to provide input into course and lesson plan construction among my peers, and committed to working toward creating learning environments that are even more successful in facilitating knowledge construction among my students. I realize now that I absolutely must be intentional in fostering student engagement by deliberately setting up active learning opportunities that increase motivation in any class that I teach. I don’t want to be the educator that just talks; I want to facilitate successful student learning!


Barkley, E.F. (2010). Student engagement techniques: A handbook for college faculty. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Brookfield, S.D. (2006). The skilful teacher: On technique trust, and responsiveness in the classroom (2 ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Harper, S.R., and Quaye, S. (2009). Beyond sameness: With engagement and outcomes for all. In Harper, S.R. and Quaye, S. (Eds). Student engagement in higher learning: theoretical perspectives and practical approaches for diverse populations (p. 1-15). New York, NY: Routledge Taylor & Francis Group.

Vandeveer, M. (2009). From teaching to learning: Theoretical foundations. In Billings, D.M., Halstead, J.A. Teaching in nursing: A guide for faculty (3rd ed.) (p. 189-226).St. Louis: MI: Saunders Elsevier.

Wenger, E. (2009). A social theory of learning. In Illeris, K. (ed). Contemporary theories of learning. Learning theorists: In their own words. (p. 209-218). Oxon: GB: Routledge Taylor & Francis Group.


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