I saw this xkcd comic today and it got me thinking. Consider that 10,000 adults hear something for the first time every day in the US. Imagine what those numbers would be like for students in grades K-12. It certainly puts what we do for our students into perspective.
I don’t mean to say that teachers tease students for not knowing what we think is basic knowledge. Far from it. What often happens is that we expect a lot of our students even when they demonstrate that they just don’t know. Maybe they’ve heard it before, but have they heard it in a way that they can remember? What do we do when students don’t meet these expectations?
Sometimes, we have to actually teach our students. Student-centered doesn’t mean that the teacher is no longer involved in the learning. Facilitating learning doesn’t mean that there is never a need for direct instruction. When students don’t know, we have to teach them.
This issue often arises when students are unable to complete basic research, collaboration, or production strategies. In these cases, it’s important that we teach students how we expect them to act and what processes we expect them employ.
When student knowledge of concepts is missing to complete a task, we have to find ways to teach this information as well. Have we facilitated a lesson that allows them to discover the content? Have we ever directly stated what it is that we want them to know? Have we made the necessary resources available for students to gain the knowledge they seek? No matter how rudimentary some content may be, sometimes students just need to be presented the material, even if it is for a second or third time.
The bottom line is that we are in this business to teach. The major objective for teaching is that students learn all they can in the short time we have them. I realize this is simplistic, but sometimes this idea gets lost when students are constantly being measured and asked to perform constantly with little time left for actual learning.
How does the comic address a teacher’s persona as a “lifelong learner”? How can the idea that there will be students hearing something for the first time every day affect your approach to teaching? What’s something you’ve learned for the first time as an adult?
Zac Early is an instructional specialist and blogger for the eMINTS National Center.