I loved this post from Valerie Strauss at the Washington Post about seven misconceptions in the area of learning - some of them coming from the norms of traditional education and some of them are perpetuated even in some education 'reform' discussions:
- Basic facts come before deep learning
The idea that students must get the 'boring' stuff or memorize factoids before they can think critically or do interesting work is off - students will achieve higher levels of mastery when these basics or facts are embedded in engaging, student centered learning.
- Rigorous education means a teacher talking
When students collaborate, communicate and create they are able to work new knowledge into meaningful learning experiences and projects - that doesn't happen easily when a teacher is merely spouting information to them, it is better addressed by leveraging the awesome power of a teacher to construct a path for students to discover that new knowledge.
- Covering it means teaching it
Isn't there an old saying that you learn best by doing? Many teachers think because I have gone through the chapter of information, then my students have internalized it. Maybe not - teachers can ensure that those bits of information aren't forgotten by doing an activity that reinforces the learning and is of course engaging.
- Teaching to student interests means dumbing it down
A child's brain is an amazing machine....new learning building on what it already knows. Educators wanting to connect with student interest should leverage what is already in their brains and relate it to the classroom teaching. Even children in Kindergarten will recognize if someone is giving them something that is too easy and will become quickly disengaged.
- Acceleration means rigor
One of the most positive aspects of the Common Core standards would be the focus on deeper learning - laying a stronger foundation for later learning by taking the time to really understand material. Some educators, schools, districts or even national programs tout that they cover more material and provide an accelerated program - one is wise to be wary of this approach. In the quest for speed and volume, you are likely giving up true mastery for the learners as that often takes time to develop.
- A quiet classroom means good learning
"Controlled chaos" - many very effective educators refer to their classroom environments this way. It's ironic that learning has been classically staged in a quiet, single focus type of setting. Many times the noise and activity show direct evidence of engaged and passionate learning taking place.
- Traditional schooling prepares students for life
Does that mean that every year people in the work world shut down everything and take standardized tests to show progress? Real life preparation involves many of the concepts that are considered non-traditional by many educators: creativity, self-management/direction, multi-tasking, communication, collaboration, critical thinking and evaluation, communication and collaboration skills.