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Forcing students to read certain books

Pernille Ripp said:

Why do we continue to force students to read certain books when that is the number one thing ALL of my students report kill their love of reading?

via http://pernillesripp.com/2015/03/21/can-we-discuss-the-whole-class-novel-for-a-moment

Nostalgic for factual recall

The memorize cassette

Two quotes from today’s article in The Des Moines Register, Iowa Poll: Common Core not so radioactive for Iowans:

Ah, the good old days

When Iowa Poll respondents opposed to Common Core standards were asked about their objections, some lamented the shift from traditional teaching methods such as rote memorization of facts and formulas to a focus on more critical thinking.

Because we’ve learned nothing about teaching math in 50 years

Civil engineer Jack Burnham Jr., a 40-year-old independent voter, also has a “very negative” view. “I’ve got a math primer from the 1960s,” he said. “That math worked just fine.”

Shifting the public’s conceptions about learning and teaching is an ongoing, uphill battle…

Image credit: the memorize cassette, Robert Oxford

Why would students feel valued at school?

Quaglia Institute for Student Aspirations

Without having seen the exact survey questions, here are some quick reactions I have to these data…

  • Why on earth would students say they feel valued at school? In most schools, students are told what to do nearly every minute of every school day, are generally treated as passive recipients of whatever adults foist on them, have their thoughts and opinions routinely and blatantly ignored or dismissed when it comes to day-to-day operations, and are punished whenever they deviate from organizational compliance structures. The number of schools in which students have significant input into things that actually matter is miniscule. But, hey, it’s all about the kids and we care.
  • Kids are bored. Gallup boredom data reinforce the Quaglia boredom data, as do the tidal waves of anecdotes from anyone you want to ask about their school experience. But we don’t seem to care enough to do anything about it.
  • Everyone’s a learner, everyone’s a teacher. Online we exist within interconnected, interdependent webs of learning and teaching. But not in school.

Your thoughts and reactions?

Data source: How to help kids find their aspirations

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Workshop responses: Incorporating students’ learning interests and passions

Here are some data from a workshop I did with 80 educators…

Student interests

What would this look like in your school? What could / should it look like?

Here are some more positive comments from the participants:

  • We enjoy celebrating out of class interests and talents
  • It’s great to let students choose their own topics based on their own interests for assignments whenever possible
  • Personal Finance class – students put together their own personal finance plans
  • Give choices in reading, math, and writing
  • Allow kids to come up with alternative assessments, as long as they apply to topic at hand
  • Anytime we can personalize assignments it gives them a chance to insert their passion

And some less positive comments:

  • Just because someone likes peas doesn’t mean you should feed them peas everyday. Sometimes you need to introduce something new.
  • One of my high school students said all he wants to do is “party” when he is an adult. It is hard to discuss that one in class!
  • Are their interests now the same interests they’ll have as an adult w/a family?
  • Their interests are nothing we have to assess
  • Is it the teacher’s job to motivate every student?
  • The Iowa Core doesn’t really allow for students’ passions to be incorporated into the classroom
  • Most of their interests are not part of the Common Core
  • Curriculum demands make it difficult–too much assessing
  • A number of students do not have Internet access or a computer at home.
  • Many do the quickest and easiest way

What are your thoughts?

The achievement gap v. the relevance gap

Future Wise, David Perkins

David Perkins said:

What did you learn during your first twelve years of education that matters in your life today?

The achievement gap asks, “Are students achieving X?” whereas the relevance gap asks, “Is X going to matter to the lives learners are likely to live?”

If X is good mastery of reading and writing, both questions earn a big yes! Skilled, fluent, and engaged reading and writing marks both a challenging gap and a high-payoff attainment. That knowledge goes somewhere! However, if X is quadratic equations, the answers don’t match. Mastering quadratic equations is challenging, but these equations are not so lifeworthy. Now fill in X with any of the thousands of topics that make up the typical content curriculum. Very often, these topics present significant challenges of achievement but with little return on investment in learners’ lives.

Here’s the problem: the achievement gap is much more concerned with mastering content than with providing lifeworthy content.

The achievement gap is all about doing the same thing better. . .  the relevance gap asks us to reconsider deeply what schools teach in the first place.

via Future Wise, Chapters 1 and 2

Hat tip: Mike Crowley

We don’t question the dentist’s new ways of doing things

Dental x-ray machine

Mike Crowley said:

many of us cling to the certainties of the way we were educated ourselves as “the right way” to do so. Any deviation from the tried and trusted can elicit nervousness and uncertainty, especially – and unsurprisingly – from parents. Our faith in the tried and the trusted is a little bit like holding onto the handrails in the deep end of a swimming pool. When schools suggest that the depth of experience is more vital than just skimming the surface, we are looked at sceptically. The same does not happen with other professions, of which we seem to be far more trusting. I went to my dentist recently in a lot of pain. He suspected my problem was sinusitis and pointed out that he had just invested in a hi-tech system that used a high resonance 3D imaging model to offer a visual understanding of the nature of pain itself. Did I resist this innovation? Question the use of this new technology? Ask if he knew what he was doing? Suggest that this is not what my dentist would have done in 1976? No, of course not. This only happens in schools.

via http://crowleym.com/2015/02/07/lifeworthy-learning-close-encounters-of-the-third-kind

Image credit: Dental xray machine, Diana Beideman

The factory model of schooling undermines teacher nurturing

Don Berg said:

I suspect that most teachers are nurturing, or at least want to be, and that they already make a meaningful difference in the lives of some small proportion of their students despite the nature of the system.

But as wonderful as that is, the system has no mechanism for supporting, let alone encouraging, individual nurturing behaviors. In fact, the system suppresses nurturing behaviors.

In 2009 the peer-reviewed journal Educational Psychologist published a literature review article by Professor Johnmarshall Reeve on why the majority of teachers act in ways that thwart the primary psychological need for autonomy.

He suggests that both the system and the individuals in the situations studied reinforce behaviors that are exactly the opposite of nurturing in a variety of ways, not because of back room conspiracies nor venal depravity, but because of tragic misunderstandings.

The deleterious effects of the system overwhelm the positive effects of nurturing individuals because the system is currently organized in a manner that undermines nurturing, the very foundation upon which education is built.

Ironic, don’t you think?

The system is not all-powerful, so it does not always undermine the foundation completely.

But it does its undermining work relentlessly day after day after day and it does more harm than most people want to acknowledge.

Learn more at https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/every-parent-s-dilemma-a-book-project

Corrosive to a teacher’s humanity

Ellie Herman said:

If teaching is an art and a science, I’m scared that in our national conversation about education, we are so intent on demanding accountability for mastering the ‘science’ part that we’re creating conditions that seem designed to crush teachers’ souls. When our system treats teachers with disdain, creating accountability measures whose underlying premise is that teachers are so incompetent and lazy that they need to be monitored rigidly, strictly and incessantly, at what point does that myth become corrosive to a teacher’s humanity? 

How do we nurture and encourage the qualities teachers need in order to use all these techniques in the first place, the faith, the compassion, the patience, the passion for a subject? Can we start by valuing those qualities – by which I do not mean putting a dollar value on them? Can we acknowledge and respect the individual lives and experiences that teachers are bringing to the classroom every day, without which none of what they’re teaching would be of any use to anyone? Can we balance our need for accountability with our equal need for inspiration?

via http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2015/02/02/what-makes-a-great-teacher

Why must we ask the 21st century to wait outside our classes?

Internet kill switch

John Jones said:

why must we ask the 21st century to wait outside our classes? Is it just to protect the lecture? We know what a classroom designed around lectures, notes, and quizzes can do, and it is not impressive. . . . Perhaps by embracing the new forms and structures of communication enabled by laptops and other portable electronics we might discover new classroom practices that enable new and better learning outcomes.

There is a robust body of research exploring alternatives to the lecture. Never before has technology been so able to support a new understanding of learning but, as Rivers argues, suppressing the use of new technologies avoids and ignores such discussions.

via http://dmlcentral.net/blog/john-jones/let’s-ban-bans-classroom

Image credit: internet-kill-switch, CyberHades

The educative effect is greater when students do something than when something is done to them

Lecture

Ron Byrnes said:

There should be a corollary to the admonition [to students], “Bring energy for learning; be interested and engaged,” such as “Faculty will resist talking at you. Instead they will capitalize on your energy for learning by developing personalized learning environments characterized by meaningful interaction.”

Deborah Meier argues in The Power of Their Ideas, “Teaching is mostly listening and learning is mostly telling” (1995, p. xi). Likewise, Decker Walker contends in Fundamentals of Curriculum, “The educative effect is greater when students do something than when something is done to them” (1990, p. 479). University faculty rarely apply these aphorisms because they think of themselves first and foremost as mathematicians, philosophers, and psychologists who also happen to teach. Consequently, scant time is spent thinking about whether conventional teaching methods are working. Even less time is spent crafting alternative ones; as a result, a talking at students status quo prevails.

via http://www.tcrecord.org/Content.asp?ContentID=17818

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