Monday, February 20, 2012

What You Know That Isn't Really So

"Will Rogers once said, 'It isn’t what people don’t know that hurts them. It’s what they do know that just ain’t so.' All of us – teachers, parents, and students – retain outdated ideas about learning that are based largely on our previous experiences in school." - ICG, the Independent Curriculum Group, from the Web page.

Myths are difficult to destroy. They are self-supporting and have the power to inspire and propagate faith in those who repeat them. In time, a myth can become an accepted ancient truth; when that happens, the myth can actually prove itself by becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Valerie Strauss recently listed seven myths about education that may apply to the foregoing and your approach to teaching in the Confer classroom. Let's be myth-busters:

  1. Basic Facts Come Before Deep Learning. Why do we insist that students study boring details before we give them fun and engaging materials? Why is memorization a necessary precursor to analytical thinking? Of course, it isn't, and we are most successful when we begin our teaching with activities and ideas that allow students to use the "basic facts" to solve problems and experience meaningful insights.
  2. Rigorous Education Means a Teacher Talking. Teachers love to talk, of course, and if they didn't, students might be disoriented. But learning requires more than hearing and listening. In the Confer classroom, students have plenty of opportunities to interact with one another and their instructors. The instructor who integrates these opportunities with the learning materials will find that students are making rapid and meaningful progress.
  3. Covering It Means Teaching It. You've shown your slides and discussed the text. So you've done your part, right? No! Unless students are allowed and encouraged to do something with the content, they'll quickly forget it and will have little hope of ever understanding it.
  4. Teaching to Student Interests Means Dumbing It Down. Student interests aren't stupid; they're based on present knowledge. It's that present knowledge that must be the basis for future knowledge. If we ignore it, we perpetuate students' own myths.
  5. Acceleration Means Rigor. Each of your students is unique, and each can be used by others to reinforce learning. It makes sense to take advantage of diversity, rather than to try to fight it by separating advanced students and moving them ahead. The dynamic of class learning is enhanced when you're able to encourage students to dig deeper into content they understand and share their insights.
  6. A Quiet Classroom Means Good Learning. A quiet Confer classroom is a bit scary. It may well mean that your students are no longer paying attention, that they've moved on to other online interests. Let them speak up, both for them and for you.
  7. Traditional Schooling Prepares Students for Life. In the real world, people are required to make things, exercise control over what they know, analyze new facts, communicate with one another, and work with others with different talents and insights. They're not generally required to listen to a teacher and study for tests. 

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