Thursday, July 29, 2010

Is it Learning or Compliance?

This topic has bothered me for some time. After reading 4thGrdTeach's blog on homework she inspired me to write. Homework is a big issue but the bigger issue is what are kids learning from the class? Are students truly learning or are they just complying with our course requirements to "get the grade?" How do we build young minds to desire knowledge? Have we taken the time to write curriculum that engages them or are we using the textbooks as an easy time saving devise? Are you one of those teachers who assign reading and questions at the end of a chapter? Or do you know a teacher who is referred to as "Captain Handout?" This is all very real and sad and it only functions as a means of turning kids off to learning. Not all students love all subjects but we can at least make it interesting by building a better mouse trap.:-)

Many teachers complain that they just don't have enough time. Okay, I understand the limits of time for teachers but there are a lot of us who take the time to create good lessons that get kids interested in learning. What is the point of a lesson if the student doesn't learn anything from it? Ask those teachers, "What the heck are we here for anyway?" I have heard countless students tell me that a class was a waste of time or that they were so bored in a class. Didn't I read recently that the number one reason for high school dropouts was boredom in school? Houston, we have a problem!

So, how do we move kids toward an intrinsic desire to learn? There are a lot of ways and I am hopeful that my colleagues will use some of the many examples that they learn from professional development and their PLN. Wait...most of them don't even know or want to know what PLN stands for let alone create and use one. Alas, that is a problem but things change and many of us who have a PLN and blog and dare I say...LEARN are forcing the change. 

Staff and students learn differently! We know this from Howard Gardner's Multiple Intelligences, Differentiated Curriculum training and Sir Ken Robinson's "The Element." Therefore we need to allow students the freedom to learn in the way they learn best. Paper and pencil is not the answer for most kids. Give them choice and give them buy in. Once you give them a choice then you can build solid lessons that engage them. Cooperative learning works wonders when done well. Students learn more when they share with each other. So here are a few methods to incorporate:
  • PBL - Project Based Learning with student choice of topic and type.
  • Cooperative Learning - Students learning from each other. Score!
  • Socratic Circles/Discussions - Works well in most subjects.
  • Collaborative Web based Learning - Wikis, Nings, Moodles, etc.

Okay, I get the fact that those of you reading this already do many of these things and that I'm preaching to the choir but, I am hopeful we can spread the word and influence others.
We need to work hard to develop a child's desire to learn. Create a democratic classroom. Don't talk at them, talk with them. As we move away from the old model of education, let us hope that learning is at the forefront of what the new model looks like. Be a part of the solution!

1 comment:

  1. Nice post Ron, I'm totally with you on this. I agree that engagement is the key to getting the students to learn. I look at the key here as time. We throw all kinds of money at the problem, but as long as we have a fixed amount of time to teach things, we will always have to maintain a certain level of structure and control over the class. I recently took an online masters program and what I really enjoyed about it was I created my own time management. I certainly spent more time on assignments I enjoyed more! With all the "teach to the test" stuff in curriculums, there is no time left for anything else. That has to change for engagement to come back.