Stay Focused


Hearing your favorite piece of music play is a joy of recognition. The melody is familiar and brings back good memories. The sound is detected almost instantly. Probably you have been listening to that piece quite a few times before it got such a high ranked status. To appreciate things surely takes a while. But there is more to it. A short example about tooth brushing to illustrate this: every morning the same ritual: taking your toothbrush and start brushing. Someday, by whatever circumstance, you are offered to try out a new type of brushing tool. Amazed about that whole new sensation you confess it is different and start using the new one from then on. It happens. What happened is an opportunity to break out of the obvious and the ‘taken for granted’, and you ‘differentiated’. It occurs all too often that we stick to things, actions, and thoughts that are familiar to us but learning to appreciate means to let them stand out against other options and possibilities, like in the sensation informed decision to use a new brushing tool. Appreciation begins with focusing; to make a figure-ground distinction (1) .

Does this work for learning (to appreciate) a theory as well? Students in teacher education are confronted with several theories of learning to guide their teaching but will there ever be a faithful adoption of a deliberate way of understanding teaching or are theories of learning an indifferent bulk of concepts not particularly relevant to understand one’s teaching actions(2) ?
A study by Swedish scholars used a carefully designed instructional procedure to acquaint students of teaching with a particular model of teaching. The key of their stepwise procedure was to focus on (by varying) the relevant differences between theories. In this way (and students had to give three subsequent teaching lessons to experience relevant features of the model) they learned to appreciate what mattered (the content) and what distracted from an understanding.

What stands out here as crucial is the gradual and deliberate looking for critical aspects (i.e., focusing on what matters) and that this may take a while. Things are not that evident the first time we look at it. Unfortunately we do not often have the opportunity the study provided; to go over our actions more than once (or even three times). Nevertheless, focusing in more detail how we understand things may definitely bring about a more mindful approach. It is especially the educative setting that allows us to do this and go over our actions once again. It is good to note then that learning (a theory) does not materialize at once but takes effect after a prolonged encounter.


Göran Brante, Mona Holmqvist Olander, Per-Ola Holmquist & Marta Palla (2015):
Theorising teaching and learning: pre-service teachers’ theoretical awareness of learning, European Journal of Teacher Education, 38:1, 102-118,
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Summarizing the piece

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Referencing the issue




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