Have you had a chance to see Will Richardson’s recent Tedx talk titled The Surprising Truth about Learning in Schools yet? If not, watch it right now:
What resonates the most with me is Richardson’s argument that there is a very real disconnect between our beliefs about schooling and the practices that we embrace in schools.
I wrestle with that disconnect almost every single day — and it’s professionally exhausting. As a sixth grade science teacher, I am responsible for teaching students about TONS of trivia. So far this year, the kids in my classroom have:
- memorized the parts of a flowering plant.
- studied the difference between the A, B and C horizon in a soil profile.
- learned about the basic properties of soil.
- sorted rocks into categories including intrusive/extrusive, clastic/nonclastic and foliated/nonfoliated.
- tried to keep hydro-, ge0- and thigmotropisms straight.
You see the problem there, don’t you? The emphasis in each of those examples is on KNOWING, when science classes should prioritize DOING. Instead of asking and answering interesting questions, we are racing to cover the content in the required curriculum. My classroom prioritizes schooling, not learning — and that’s a function of the priorities set in our required curriculum.
That’s a tangible example of the disconnect that Will is describing.
If we REALLY cared about developing students who are critical thinkers who can work creatively across domains and who can solve problems collaboratively — which I believe are the RIGHT goals — then those practices would stand at the center of our classrooms and our assessments and our evaluations and observations of good teaching.
The sad truth, though, is while we are more than willing to give lip service to the notion that schools should be different, we continue to embrace traditional definitions of what “successful schools” look like in action. No one is held accountable for creating learning spaces that facilitate higher order behaviors. Instead, we’re held accountable for the results we produce on standardized tests.
That has to change.
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