Thinking & Learning

How do we get students to think, to focus on learning, to seek out learning, to want to learn?  This is a conversation that my husband, a secondary principal, and I had on our 4-hour car ride this weekend.  We are both learners.  We love to learn new information and seek out people to learn from.  I don’t see this in most of my students.

In the scavenger hunt activity that I posted, students needed to look at images and decide which one would answer the question.

student: Mrs. Tolen, how do I know what it’s asking?

Me: What are you clues?

Student: Can’t you just tell me?

Me: Yes, but I’m not going to.

Student: But that’s you job.

Me: No, my job is to teach you to learn. Tell me one thing that might give you an idea about what this is asking.

Student: UGH!

Willing to Learn

It’s exhausting to do this day after day.  I had hoped by 3rd quarter that students would start taking an initiative.  Standards based grading has helped them identify what they need help with and they’ll tell me what they need help with but they still just want me to tell them how to do it.  I’ve talked to them about brain based research, about how THEY need to process the information to learn it.  They want the path of least resistance.

Star Wars
via starwarsintheclassroom.com

We’ve created this issue.  Start here stop there, do this then that, create this and here’s my example to copy…  Students who are most successful (based solely on grades) are the ones who can regurgitate information quickly, copy a project precisely, and complete assignments the first time even if they didn’t completely understand.  When you ask these students to use this information in a new situation, create something unique, or to explore something they may never have seen before, this is when true intelligence rises to the top.

Standardized Minds

This is what employers want.  They want thinkers, not drones, they want new ideas and innovation. I don’t know the easy button answer to my first question:How do we get students to think, to focus on learning, to seek out learning, to want to learn? I know we need to change what we are doing with students. We need to get rid of standardized testing, GPA, class rank and anything else that focuses on a grade and not on learning. We need to create a culture where students want to learn, where their first response is to think about a solution, and simply copying what someone else has done is just not good enough.    We need to keep asking questions and stop always giving answers.

I’m going to end with Einstein – a great thinker who impacted our world. He didn’t consider himself intelligent but he did consider himself a learner.


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