Is it not noteworthy that the word or concept of learning probably has the highest of all word counts in the diverse literatures in education and yet when people are asked what they mean by learning they are taken aback, stammer or stutter, and come up with a sentence or two which they admit is vague and unsatisfactory? (x)
Me (to the authors of an article titled “School Superintendents Have No Contractual Obligation to Improve Learning“):
Serious question: What do you mean when you say “learning?”
Malachi Nichols, co-author, in response:
Great question. We wanted to leave it wide open since there are many possible definitions of what learning could be. But essentially we are defining “learning” as academic goals. We counted any mention, however vague, of student graduation rates, test scores, employment outcome, or simply the word “academic” as a form of an academic goal which measures student achievement.
This book is centered around two assertions. The first is that the word or concept of learning is not only lacking in substance but also has the characteristics of an inkblot; in addition, the relationship of those characteristics to actions is illogical, confusing, and self-defeating. The second assertion is that unless and until research provides a credible basis for distinguishing between contexts of productive and unproductive learning in the classroom, educational reform will be fruitless (vii).
Long, long way to go.
(Serious note #1: We need to be asking that question every day, all day when it comes to framing our work in schools. Define your terms.)
(Serious note #2: If you haven’t already done so, read the whole Sarason chapter (or better yet, the book) and then come back and let’s talk more.)
Gerald Aungst says
One small little observation. Why do we champion quantity (“Some evidence suggests that where boards focus on academics, students **learn more**” from paragraph 2 of the Nichols article) over quality…? I never see the phrase “students learned better” or “students learned more deeply”….