Tag Archives: learning

School… a place for learning?

Dewey Quote

From: http://missklohnsclassroom.blogspot.com.eg/2012/10/what-weve-been-up-to.html

It has been a while! Last post – beginning of July. Now, I’m in Egypt and pondering the same questions with new friends!!!

So… How do we bridge the gap between what we know is best and the constraints of the current system that we are in?

A system that is largely dictated by university/college and employer expectations and guidelines as well as parent perspectives on what education/classroom learning SHOULD look like. Is this fair? Can we change this? Is it already changing?

Then, I come across Will Ferriter’s post on a Will Richardson TEDx Talk. Both are worthwhile to spend some time digesting and reflecting on! What resonated to me is the idea that, when something happens that makes us want to learn more… we dive in deep for the sake of our own curiosity. How can we, as educators, create those events that make students want to learn more about what we are TRYING to teach?
We have talked long and often about the disconnect between what we know about how learning best occurs and how we ‘do’ learning. So, let’s work on connecting some of these concepts, within the constraints that we face, as we work on eliminating the constraints.
Here are some concepts we can immediately use to engage our students more (many of these can be hit by developing Project-Based Learning activities – see previous posts on PBL):
  • Make it fun
  • Make it with a real world application
  • Make it relevant to young lives, now
  • Make it social
  • Make it for a real audience
  • Make it challenging
  • Make it from the ideas of our students!
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Motivation… 1-2-3, P-B-L!

From: Race Walk Pictures at https://www.flickr.com/ photos/97321708@N07/ under CC license https://creativecommons.org/  licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/

From: Race Walk Pictures at https://www.flickr.com/photos/ 97321708@N07/ under CC license https://creativecommons.org/ licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/

We set the bar high and our students are expected to reach or exceed what might be very challenging heights of academic standards. What if they are just not motivated to try to reach those learning goals?

How do we keep our students motivated as they strive to meet increasingly challenging academic standards?

Actually, “Every student is motivated – just not necessarily in the way teachers hope” (Quate and McDermott, Sept. 2014). Two key factors are (1) helping students feel that teachers are committed to their potential AND (2) “making sure students feel intellectually challenged” (Ibid). When students know you support them and believe in them they are more motivated to do the work. Add to that (3) as many of the factors that go hand-in-hand with Project-Based Learning:

  1. Give students more voice and choice (still making it teacher-guided, though);
  2. Localize the project (for added relevance and personal connection);
  3. Keep it real (again, in relation to the student, personally);
  4. Launch the project with an entry event;
  5. Emphasize commitment to the team;
  6. Involve outside collaborators;
  7. Have students present their work to a public audience.

(From: John Larmer. “Boosting the Power of Projects.” Educational Leadership Sep. 2014: 42-46. Print.)

Now (1-2-3, P-B-L), we can sustain an environment of motivated learning! For immediately useful links related to PBL see my previous posts, “Stressed out about projects? Here’s a handy checklist!” and “More PBL Resources!

By incorporating Project-Based Learning into our instructional plans we can engage students to a degree that they may not normally have been, in the past. PBL is recognized ” as a way to boost students’ motivation to learn” (Larmer, Sept. 2014). Ideally, our students will happily choose to strive to meet and/or exceed those high standards and we can continue to support their optimum learning!

Sources:

  • Larmer, John. “Boosting the Power of Projects.” Educational Leadership Sep. 2014: 42-46. Print.
  • Quate, Stevi and John McDermott. “The Just-Right Challenge.” Educational Leadership Sep. 2014: 61-65

 

More PBL Resources!

From: Andrew Miller’s post: “Resources for Getting Started With Project-Based Learning”

As y’all know I’m a big fan of Project-Based Learning. I’m also a big fan of Edutopia! Here’s a repost of one of their recent “News” emails…

Edutopia Newsletter

and… http://www.edutopia.org/project-based-learning-getting-started-resources

I highly recommend Edutopia’s Newsletter! Enjoy!!!

Where learning lies…

Collecting data on human learning based on children’s behavior in school is like collecting data on killer whales based on their behavior at Sea World.

This was a long article! It was worth every minute. Take some time. Quiet time. Give yourself enough time to read this AND reflect. Then, think about how to foster those learning moments that happen naturally.

 

Engaged Learning? Why? Our future is at stake!

Can anyone seriously argue that potential learners do not need to be engaged, or that engagement is not a contributing factor to learning? Have you ever been in a classroom full of energetic, eager learners who aren’t engaged? It can get pretty hectic. Not a lot of learning going on… at least not the kind that’s typically focused on national, state, district or school learning goals! Contrast that with those same learners, actively engaged in work that they are curious about AND that happens to be relevant and meaningful (in terms of academic preparation for the 21st century).

If we all agree that engagement is more than just a good idea, it’s necessary… why do we find so many dis-engaged potential learners?

Are we making room for questioning? Do students get the opportunity to really benefit from inquiry by ‘going deep’? Is Project-Based Learning a fantasy? I find it interesting (there were so many other words I could have used here!) that many of us (educators) feel confounded by the new generation of ‘instant information’, and complain that kids can not stay engaged in ANYTHING for more than a few minutes. Really!? Let’s look at two, somewhat fictitious, Middle School classrooms:

Mr. Enthusiastic is well known amongst students and parents as a good teacher. He has great rapport with his students, has established a positive climate with clear expectations, rules and disciplinary procedures and he LOVES the current MS History textbook. He also LOVES to lecture. He knows that students have a variety of learning styles so he throws in visuals, graphic organizers and the occasional group activity (answering questions from the text). However, most of class time is spent going through the textbook, answering questions and copying his notes while he tells (somewhat) related stories. Being a Middle School teacher, Mr. Enthusiastic recognizes that he should try to vary activity in the classroom to keep students from losing interest, so, every 20 minutes he has his students stand up, jump in place and rotate seats to keep the blood flowing. He makes sure to have one major group project each semester, usually a PowerPoint presentation that requires each student to do research, write and present. Student assessment results are above average. Yet, whenever another teacher covers his class, students are somewhat disengaged, but usually kept in line by his consistent routines. Sometimes, students complain that class is boring and that Mr. Enthusiastic isn’t as funny as he thinks he is but most students still say that the class is better than many of their other classes.

Ms. Reflective is a quieter teacher. She certainly has the respect and admiration of parents who have had children enrolled in her classes. She also teaches Middle School History. She established the rules and disciplinary procedure, collaboratively, with her students. She has taught the students questioning techniques and she uses them, often, as they do research and read important background information. She also works collaboratively with the other grade level teachers, trying to develop meaningful, relevant cross-curricular projects. This has meant that there are times when she and another teacher co-teach a combined class (twice as large as the 33 students she has in most of her classes) when they share back-to-back instructional periods. She will normally have students work on 4-6 cross-curricular projects per year. Her students also do a lot of writing and peer editing in class and occasional debates. Typically (unless they are writing or doing research), her classroom is much noisier than Mr. Enthusiastic’s, yet, she doesn’t have more discipline issues. In fact, when someone else covers her classes they find that the students are very much self-directed, focused and engaged in their work for extended periods of time. Her students’ assessment results are consistently very high. Students report that they not only learned a lot about history, they also learned a lot about themselves, as learners. Quite a few also complain about the amount of reading and writing they have to do (but… will admit it was probably worth it).

Which teacher do you want for your children?

 

Engaged, meaningful, learning is important. There’s some simple ways to engage and there are more complex (and, initially, work intensive) ways to engage but the fact is… kids are worth it! They are OUR future! Let’s make it a promising one.

Here are some resources that may help engage students, more: