Put LEARNING centre stage

Thursday 18 April 2019

In the new IB Standards and Practices LEARNING is put centre stage.

What does this mean in practice?

"If we want our students to actually learn the facts and concepts and ideas we’re trying to teach them, they have to experience those things in some way that rises above abstract words on paper. They have to process them. Manipulate them. To really learn in a way that will stick, they have to DO something." (Jennifer Gonzalez, To learn student needs to DO something, November 2018)

I write this blog as I sit helping my teenage daughter prepare for her exams, half frustrated that it appears she is learning a lot of the material for the first time! Although the teacher has communicated the material, and she has taken notes, she struggles with understanding what the main ideas are, how to apply them to questions she has not previously seen, and then how to transfer what she is learning in one subject to that of another. I can't help but feel that parents the world over are facing the same problem.

Jennifer Gonzalez (of Cult of Pedagogy fame) writes of a similar experience witnessing her children learn material, first at elementary and then at high school. Her blog (referred to above is well worth reading).

“I realize that people who read these posts are probably doing a lot more in class than this information-in, information-out model. But I listen to teachers talk all the time: in schools, on social media, in private messages, and I know that things are not going well for you all of the time. I hear teachers talk about “covering” concepts in class and even reviewing them with games, only to end up with half the class failing an exam. This is incredibly frustrating; I know. But the truth is, just because you covered it, it doesn’t mean they learned it.”(Jennifer Gonzalez, To learn student needs to DO something, November 2018)

Gonzalez draws our attention to where she thinks it can all go wrong in the delivery of the lesson. The typical lesson plan consists of:

  • Activator - where we get students interested in set objectives
  • Instruction - key concepts, facts etc.
  • Guided practice and application - students apply what they have been taught guided by the teacher
  • Independent practice (often homework etc).
  • Assessment - of what has been taught
She identifies the third aspect of this lesson structure as needing more attention. It is certainly the case with my daughter. She understands what is to be learnt, can rote learn facts and concepts, but struggles with how to apply these to real life situations. This requires practice and close guidance by the teacher, and use of specific strategies (such as retrieval practice, discussion and collaboration, use of graphic organisers).


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