Saturday, December 03, 2005
'Attracting' students to want to learn.
The challenge is to 'attract' learner's minds rather than 'engage'.
The metaphor the Ministry of Education uses, in reference to students ‘turned off’ learning, is that they are disengaged. It all sounds rather mechanical, controlling, and technocratic to me – I prefer that we need to ‘attract’ learners to be involved in their own learning. The metaphors we use are important as they relate to the worldview we have. Take a look at how teacher’s metaphorical thinking shapes curriculum at the teachersmind site. What ever there is no doubt that worldwide there is a mismatch between schooling and students desire to learn about year 9 and 10.
What exactly is happening inside student’s heads and hearts at this level as they experience school? And what is happening in classrooms when students get engaged?
An article in the best of ascd summer 2005 provides some answers.
Classrooms, the article says, are powerful places which can either be ‘dynamic settings that launch dreams and delight minds, or arid places that diminish hope and deplete energy.’ Too often, quoting Goodland (1984) ‘boredom is a disease of epidemic proportions’ and most students wish they wee somewhere else.
Students experience disengagement in different flavors:
Slow time: predicable, mechanical, routine and dull – ‘like being on along trip with your parents without your CD player.’
Lost time: when students find it hard to say what they have experienced.
Fast time: where students position themselves to appear attentive – what someone calls devoting energy to ‘doing school’; going through the motions.
Worry time/Play time: where students worry about non academic maters, or are involved in off topic conversation that tactically shifts on arrival of the teacher.
One write Robert Fried has written a wonderful book about all the above called ‘The Game of School.’
Engaged time, the article continues, is when students are deeply immersed in learning where students are ‘roused to life, animated with feelings and ideas.’ Such moments are the ‘Holy Grail’ of teaching –‘learning is provocative, enchanting, memorable or enjoyable’; ‘the triumphs of teaching’ created when teachers ‘cultivate a powerful classroom ethos over the long term’. Such teachers are in tune with their students, value their ideas and contributions, use a variety of strategies, and work with them to help them make their own meanings.
Students need to create and are most involved when thinking about ‘projects that allows them express their originality.’ Feelings of ‘ownership’ are vital as is students having their ideas taken seriously.
Students also like learning from teachers who are passionate about what they are teaching. Expressive teachers, who share anecdotes from their own lives, and link learning to real life applications, foster ‘energized’ learning.
Most of all students want to ‘spend time with teachers who enjoy being with them and who know them as people. They wanted teachers to understand their experiences, interests, aspirations, needs, fears, and idiosyncrasies. Feeling known, understood, and appreciated matters.’
Young people in early secondary education are on a ‘journey to figure out who they are…what talents and potential they have, and where they might end up.’ Teachers who tap into these concerns, in any learning area, engage students.
Education is all ‘about wining hearts and minds’ by ‘engaging them in whatever subject we teach , so they can discover genuine meaning and value’ during their time at school.
Jerome Bruner once wrote that ‘education is the canny art of intellectual temptation’.
‘Global teen have a very low threshold for boredom…do not bore this generation or it will abandon you’, Elissa Moses wrote in 2000.
We need to make our school more 'attractive' and responsive by personalizing learning to the needs of the students. Mass education, based on a ‘one size fits all’ industrial mentality, has had its day.
This is why students are disengaged.