Unpacking Learning by Wholes – Let the Thinking Journey Begin.


I started reading the book a month ago and did not really move forward beyond chapter 1 since then. The introduction part was engaging and I enjoyed reading the examples of the writer’s learning journey.  I tried to make a connection to my own learning journey and the student’s learning journey in my class.

The title of the book itself has made me think of how to make learning whole, what it means and why it is important.  In this book, David Perkins mentioned a lot about playing a game.  I do believe that ‘playing‘ is essential in life.

I stopped many times as I read the pages and thought if I have done this.  As I read through the summary of each principle in the introduction chapter, I learn that I may have got elementitis and aboutitis – they’re kind of diseases as David Perkins mentioned in his book.

My Post (5)
Source: Making Learning Whole. David Perkins pg. 3-4.

Is that bad? Hmm…I grew up with lots of elementitis.  I believe that’s how I learned when I was a child.  Even until now, I still learn and do things by breaking things down in order to do be able to understand how things work.  When I learn a foreign language, I do have to understand the basic rule step by step.  Let’s say when I first started learning German, the basic rule der-die-das has never been stuck in my head.  The result is I am not able to speak grammatically correct German.  Without a clear understanding, I can’t move forward and understand a bigger concept.  And at the same time, I do not mind to have aboutitis in my life.   I sometimes need to understand the ‘WHY’ I learn things in order to make things more sense.  I don’t have to master the basic rule, but as long as I have some ideas of how to order food in this language, I am good… (That’s basically how I survived when I lived in Kazakhstan years ago).  This resulted that I could survive but I did not have a good understanding of this language.

……The complaint about elementitis and aboutitis is NOT that they don’t accomplish anything BUT that we could accomplish so much more…..

…..What option is there besides either taking something complicated element by element and putting it together much later or only learning about it for quite a while?  What else can one do? ……

Source: Making Learning Whole. David Perkins pg. 6-7.

I may have made my students got elementitis and aboutitis as well.  It’s not like that it’s totally bad but …..things can be done more and better.  As I moved to the first chapter – unpacking the first principle of learning by whole – I continue developing the understanding of learning by playing the whole game.

My Post (4)
Source: Making Learning Whole. David Perkins pg.8.

What does that mean by playing the whole game?  Does that mean we should understand the big idea, the central idea? OR is it another aboutitis?

My Post (6)
Source: Making Learning Whole. David Perkins pg. 17-19.

When I introduced my students to fractions, I did not explain the connection between fractions and decimals.  I did plan the fraction unit in inquiry-based learning experiences.  However, through conducting an assessment for learning, I found out that two students have understood how to convert fractions to decimals which helped me differentiate my teaching strategies.  The rest of the class were still at the stage of learning how to find equivalent fractions and how to compare fractions.  Whilst the two students have moved on to explore more about decimals.  Some of them were wondering why they should know how to find equivalent fractions.  What can we do with it?  How can it be useful? When do we actually use this skill?  If we know how to find equivalent fraction…then what?

Good questions!  As a teacher, I did explain the connection that they will make when they are asked to add/subtract fractions with different denominators. They nodded and continued working on equivalent fractions.  As I reflected on how I spread the ‘elementitis’ virus to the students, I wonder there’s anything I can do differently.  What if I tell them the big idea of learning fractions, tell them connections that they can make if they have this understanding…perhaps they would be more interested.  Well…they were interested and engaged throughout the fraction unit.  But what could go differently if I change my teaching to the learning by wholes approach?

…..I continue digging into this book during my Easter break…peeling off the ‘content’ and making sense of what it’s written in my context.  If you have read this book, please feel free to share your thoughts.  I may still have elementitis and aboutitis but I want to move forward understanding learning by wholes.  If you have not had this book, you may want to order and peel it off.




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