If you’re a frequent visitor here, you know that I’m always going on about the importance of grounding our work in education in what we believe about how kids learn. (If you haven’t checked out my latest TEDx Talk, you’ll get the gist.) You’ll also know how surprised I am that so few of us have actually articulated what exactly we do believe, not to mention how few schools and districts have done that as a community.
Those that have done that usually face a dilemma. They quickly find that most of the structures that we currently employ in schools and classrooms really don’t support our fundamental beliefs about learning. I mean, and again I’ve asked this before here, if you were building a new school from scratch, would your beliefs about how kids learn lead you to separate them out by age? Would you teach a standardized curriculum assessed by standardized tests? Would you separate out disciplines into 50-minute blocks, or make students compete for grades and rankings or pretty much prevent students from asking their own questions and solving real life problems? Would those things hew to your beliefs?
I don’t think they would. Most would never argue for those things.
But that’s what we’ve got. And that’s our dilemma: Do we do the “right things,” the things we know in our hearts and minds are best for kids and learning? Or do we sacrifice those things in our attempt to “do the wrong things right?” (That’s not a new question here either, but one I keep feeling the need to come back to.)
So it follows, I think, that the road to real transformation, that place where students have true freedom and agency over the learning, where it’s about their questions, their problems, their passions, and their pathways, getting to that place requires a serious de-construction effort to break apart those “wrong things” that don’t actually fit with our beliefs about how kids actually learn.
It’s hard work. We need some de-construction helmets for sure. But if you’re serious about change, you’re going to have to do that work.
And if it’s about learning, why wouldn’t you do that work?
Image credit: Kevin Jarrett
Allison Dean says
I am very thought provoking. Some of the best and most interesting class discussion are when the students in my class are free to ask questions about the information presented. As you mention it is hard to do that with the confines of the curriculum. I hate when I have to tell the students to save their questions so we can get through the information. They get so much more out of the questions that they are interested than the required material. I wish there was more time to do both.