Friday 4ALL: Who’s doing the learning here?

Sorry for the late post, but there have been many ideas swirling around in my head these days. I considered posts on student-centered instruction, embracing constructivism, the virtues of building classroom community, etc. However, the one central question that seemed to arise for me was “Who’s doing the learning here?”

It seems that we have many choices to make when choosing our instructional practices or devising a scope and sequence of content, but lost in these decisions are the needs of our students. A teacher-centered approach helps us insure that students receive every vital piece of information we think is important. A content-centered approach insures that everything in board-approved literature is at least presented once. Still, the students are lost in these approaches.

When we stand in front of our classrooms and act as a “sage on the stage,” students are reduced to passive consumers in what Paulo Friere once described as “banking education.” Teachers act as depositors content while students become the depositories. This is where I ask the question stated above: Who’s doing the learning here?

I’d argue that in this system of education, the teachers are doing the learning. They read, note, and memorize the content. Then, it’s presented to the students using one, may two forms of communication, always in one direction.

Is the goal of our schools to simply get that information out there and hope something sticks? Or is the goal to find ways for students to interact and take ownership of the content, forging attitudes and skills that will allow them to become lifelong learners?

So, the next time we prepare lessons, we should ask this question. Are we preparing just to tell the students the content or are we planning activities that allow them to work and interact with the content in meaningful and memorable ways? In other words: Who’s doing the learning here?

Zac Early is an instructional specialist with the eMINTS National Center.