Annotated Bibliography of Resources for Educational Reform, Coherent Teaching Practice, and Improved Student Learning

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  • Wilson, S. M., & Peterson, P. L. (1997). Theories of learning and teaching: What do they mean for educators? (Working Paper, Benchmarks for Schools). Washington, DC: Office of Educational Research and Improvement.

What are the foundational beliefs and theories that should drive teaching? Wilson and Peterson say these must concern how children learn, what they should learn, and how teachers need to think and act to enable student learning. They describe four ideas about learning which represent a shift in contemporary educational thought and underlie most of the current reforms: (1) learning as a process of active construction; (2) learning as a social phenomenon; (3) learning as context-specific; and (4) learner differences as a resource. Several implications for teachers and teaching are presented as images: teaching as intellectual work, teachers as listeners and inquirers, and teachers as coaches. An example of a third-grade class struggling to understand fractions shows what this looks like in practice. The example provides rich detail of a teacher making decisions as she thoughtfully weighs options in light of her goals and the needs of the students. The authors conclude by stressing the importance of meaningful school-based dialogue about teaching and learning. They suggest three key questions to focus that dialogue: What kinds of teaching is present in the school? Why are teachers teaching in these ways? and What have teachers learned individually and collectively through and about their teaching?

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