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Along the Journey  |  

We Learn What We DO

As faculty become more adept at the online learning experience (of necessity for many; reluctantly for some), I hear many lament the loss of the classroom experience. There is a real sense of loss in not being together with students in the classroom, seeing faces, engaging in discussion, flipping through that awesome Powerpoint presentation one spent hours refining, and enjoying the energy when the classroom environment is charged with learning.

While we teachers may miss the experience of lecturing, presenting, and explaining, it remains true that students learn what THEY do, not what WE do (lecture, explain, expound, wax eloquent, etc.).

Research demonstrated that 70% to 80% of classroom teaching experience is “teacher talk” (Hatttie 2020). But, and as paradoxical as it may seem learning is not an outcome of teaching.

There is a challenge in shifting one’s stance from teaching-focused to learning-focused, especially for teachers whose only or primary teaching experience is the classroom. The shift requires a deep understanding of the cognitive and affective processes of learning that happen within the student.

The good news is that the online environment leans toward student-focused learning rather than teaching. To oversimplify, this requires teachers to become designers of a student learning experience rather than instructional performers.

Fortunately, the online learning environment offers almost unlimited opportunities for students to do something to achieve learning. It can be helpful to focus on domains of learning and align the student learning experience with the desired learning outcome.

Here are things students can do to both achieve learning and demonstrate learning:




Instructors should strive for higher-order demonstration of learning or activities and avoid rudimentary activities (“list,” “identify”). For more ways to get students to DO Student Engagement Methods, review this list of resources.

Israel Galindo is Associate Dean for Lifelong Learning at Columbia Theological Seminary. He directs the Pastoral Excellence Programs of the Center for Lifelong Learning.

Along the Journey Dr. G. & Friends