Well, we have almost made it to the end of the first nine weeks. With all the changes we are working through in education, one focus remains…our students and their ability to learn. I think we would all agree that the ability to learn is the most important skill our students can have, as well as a skill with which our students seem to struggle. Being able to learn has to come before critical thinking or problem solving skills can be developed.
I know I am guilty of focusing on the content–after all, I know my students are tested on that and must grow in that. As a teacher, I know simply force feeding students a diet of new information will not lead to mastery of the skill or content. Ohio’s New Learning Standards demand we teach our students how to learn. This article from Mind/Shift was a good reminder for me to teacher students HOW TO LEARN. (Click here to read it). There is a list of strategies we can use with students or teach students to use. I find myself asking students more and more to explain how they came to understand something. How do you know? Why did you do it that way? What went wrong here? What in the text made you think that?
I was reminded of the importance of learning about learning this week as I worked on a high level thinking process with some other English teachers. The students were posed with a question and from there it was their jobs to figure out what they knew, didn’t know, and what they needed to know to fully answer the question. The goal was to research, collaborate, and build knowledge. The goal is not the end product but rather the process. We are finding our students are not good at open-ended real-world processes. But shouldn’t that be THE SKILL they have when they leave Vantage?
I challenge you to examine if your classroom is about learning to learn. We cannot deprive our students of the ability to know how they arrived at an “answer” or how they determined the procedure to solve a problem. This is called metacognition, and it is also the skill we must have as teachers as we learn to explain why we do what we do in the classroom. I would also challenge you to collaborate on a lesson with another teacher. I have written units with my other staff before, but this week I tried something totally new with some other teachers. We were constantly reworking and reflecting about the process. The week was energizing….and we can all use that.
I am still treading water and keeping my head above the surface, but this week I lashed my raft to a couple others and floated for awhile. I was still paddling like mad, but the journey was shared. AND THE STUDENTS REAPED THE BENEFITS!!!