Monday, May 30, 2011

Spring Loss

Spring Loss

Now is the grieving time of year
            For teachers
            For children
The community we have built
            And all loved
            And lived in
Since the very first week of school
            Is now over
            Almost  extinct

There will never be another
            Like this
Never again will we be part
            Of this group
            Of this class
And we will all feel a big hole
            In our days
            In ourselves

School’s out

There can be Too Much Teaching!

There can be Too Much teaching!             May 29, 2011

I just read an interesting article about how young children learn.  The two possible answers laid out in this research article were that
1. children learn when they are taught by teachers, and
            2. children learn by exploring and constructing their own understandings of their world.
            And the correct answer is:  number 2.

To repeat a mantra I’ve believed in for years:  There is no causal relationship between teaching and learning.  Now, as a result of these clearly presented studies of young children approaching unknown tasks with and without teacher instruction, I add a corollary to my mantra:  Teaching can absolutely get in the way of learning.   

             In the studies reported by Slate, researchers showed two sets of preschool children a new toy.  With one group the researcher explained how it worked, then left them to play with it; with the other group she acted as though she had no idea how it worked, said “maybe I could try this” a couple of times, and left them to play with it.

            The “instructed” children imitated what the teacher said was the way it worked and did not explore further; with the other group the children applied their own ideas and strategies to the task and discovered – or constructed – a way for it to work.

            Waiting for children to explore and learn needs time, for both the teacher and the children.  Time seems to disappear in direct proportion to class size:  when there are fewer children, there is generally more time for each one. One advantage of a class where children are constructing their own knowledge is that the teacher/adult doesn’t have to spend as much time putting out the fires that spontaneously combust when children have little ownership of what is happening in their school day.

            None of this is to say that teaching and teachers are not useful, important, necessary:  nothing is further from the truth.  Children’s minds are delicate and burgeoning all the time, and must not be overridden.  (This is one of the many reasons why technology is not good for children…but that is another topic for discussion.