Friday, December 27, 2013

Maybe we just need to get out of their way...

Imagine this scenario...

In science class students are getting ready to learn how to use a microscope. The teacher starts by showing a short video about microscopes. The teacher then has each student share one thing they learned about microscopes from the video to the class. Next, the students are given a worksheet to label and correctly identify all the parts of the microscope. Students are then asked to switch their papers so the worksheet can be graded. Finally, students are assigned for homework to read a short story from their textbook on the use and effective operation of a microscope due the next day.

The next day the students are given a verbal quiz on the information that was covered in the reading. Following the quiz, students are paired up and each group of two students is given a microscope. Each group is now responsible for following a very prescriptive set of directions on how to use the microscope. After completing the microscope activity, students are then asked to write a reflective piece on the proper use of a microscope.

I may be wrong (and hopefully I am), but the majority of classrooms probably do something similar to the above scenario as a way to 'introduce' new information and content.

In this scenario, the students get a whole lot of information about microscopes. But, in reality, they most likely won't remember much of what they covered and they definitely wouldn't be able to teach someone else about how to use a microscope.

The information that was covered here was done in isolation and really falls short when it comes to context.

Now, imagine if we took the same scenario but instead flipped everything around and did everything in the complete opposite order.

Imagine if the students were asked to write a reflective piece first and then got the opportunity to explore and navigate a microscope with a partner with a very limited set of directions and guidelines.

Imagine if the students had their interest peaked before ever getting to the nitty gritty type of information and the official terminology and use of a microscope.

Imagine if students had context and meaning to their learning and the learning was not in isolation with no real connection to anything else.

Remember, students don't need every little detail and every little piece of information before they can start learning.

Students are naturally 'primed' and ready to learn... we simply just need to get out of their way.