Saturday, March 8, 2014

Does the Way We Teach Match the Way We Believe How Students Learn?

We often talk about backward mapping and creating pacing calendars, (we are getting rid of that term because it implies we have to "cover" the material and we end up leaving students behind at the mercy of the "pacing calendar).  We build our lesson units often with the end in mind first.  The key question is, "Do we think about how students learn before we think about how we teach?"

A key consultant for our district, Karen Ward from the Anytime Anywhere Learning Foundation, mentioned to me the need to teach teachers how students learn.  How does she know that?  The reason is based on her simple observations of what most of us do in our classrooms, and what most of us do in our staff development.
Karen Ward

If you look in most classrooms today (anywhere), we would assume students learn best by sitting, listening, and once in a while repeating or answering questions uniquely to those few students who have been conditioned to this type of teaching and learning.

However, when you ask most of us the question, "How do students learn best?", we get totally different answers!  The disconnect is because we have not taken the time in our professional study and we seldom value that reflection that empowers teachers and school leaders.  Our foundation as professional learners is to have a solid working knowledge and appreciation for how our kids learn.  And, just as important is understanding how our kids learn today in a digital world.   Ian Jukes in his article on Understanding Digital Children (Dukes, Isaj, 2006) explains how students just a generation ago were "screenagers."  Our current generation of students have gone beyond the screen and media addiction to the reliance and even dependency on interactivity.  In other words, they are used to "doing" and being involved in their learning and communication, and they are used to receiving instant and continuos feedback.  How does that match our schooling?

This introduction to how students learn best describes it well:

Students learn best when learning is active: When they are mentally 
involved, when they engage in hands-on activities, when they are 
involved in a process of inquiry, discovery, investigation, and 
interpretation. Thus, learning is enhanced when students repeat the 
information in their own words or when they give examples or make 
use of the information. *

As we learn and appreciate more and more how students learn, we will gain a better methodology in how we plan and execute our lessons.  The goal?  Get kids involved in their learning and create an environment of active learners.  With this in mind, what better way to achieve that goal than taking advantage of the technology available in a one-to-one environment?  The ease of execution and the possibilities are endless.  We can create the type of professional development that promotes our understanding of student learning, and with that create a professional learning environment that continually supports teachers in addressing how technology can easily and powerfully meet student learning needs in unlimited ways!

jukes, I. (2006). Understanding digital children. In The Info Savvy Group.

*Active Learning:, Columbia University Graduate School of Arts & Sciences Teaching Center