Walking the Walk into a New Semester

It’s always good to have a new syllabus to write. What better way to nudge oneself into ongoing learning, i.e., practice the self-reflection-into-action that I preach to my students? My semester with students who baffled me on a weekly basis (which I wrote about here, here, and here), started me pondering what I learned, why it matters, and what to do next. I’ll do this in a couple of parts. Today, conclusions and implications.

Photo by Caucas, http://www.flickr.com/photos/thecaucas/2597813380/
In a nutshell, here are some of the conclusions I’ve drawn from last semester’s experience.

-High-stakes standardized testing has had a major impact on the way we teach and the way students learn.

Our students:
-have come to expect and rely on teacher-centered classes
-usually seek the “right” answer (and/or the teacher’s ideas about a subject) before they express their opinions
-become anxious when they are asked to think for themselves
-rarely take initiative, such as pursuing opportunities to meet with teachers outside of class, propose alternative assignments, question the purpose or value of assignments or topics of study

So what?
What we’re seeing in classes is not only at odds with ideas about and principles of teaching, learning, and living in a digital, collaborative, multimodal, globally oriented society, it’s diametrically opposed. In short, we’re preparing kids for the past. You can read about some of those ideas here:

In all the talk about new literacies, where’s the discussion of the kinds of attitudes, beliefs, philosophies teachers need to have in order to frame what they do and how they do it; develop classroom policies & procedures so that students are living the kinds of actions, ways of thinking, kinds of decisions they’ll need to take, do, make in the rapidly changing world?

For example, the assumptions the teacher & students have about about learning, including

-Who’s responsible for what? Is the teacher the only one who determines the content, the classroom practices, what makes a class that’s valuable and meaningful? My students last semester told me they’d never been asked what was working or not working for them in a class. Huh?!?

-Who determines what success looks like?

-What’s a process that embodies independence, reflection, etc.,  in determining and working toward success? For example, principles of goal-setting, assessment of progress toward those goals, decisions about the next actions

-Where should learning take place? What time? With whom?

More to come as I design my way into next semester….

Photo by Caucas, http://www.flickr.com/photos/thecaucas/2597813380/

3 responses to “Walking the Walk into a New Semester”

  1. […] Visit link: Walking the Walk into a New Semester | All Hands on Deck […]

  2. Kim McCollum-Clark says:

    Sigh. It’s good to know I’m not alone in what I am seeing in the teacher-candidates, KB, but so sad that it’s come to this. My question is this: how do you resist the urge to provide each baby step. . . break everything down like it’s baby formula? What’s the appropriate middle step between being instructionally supportive and being “enabling”?

    In my teaching reading and literature class, we read a classic novel paired with a YA one to write a class unit plan. . .it helps ground our thinking about both reading and teaching. Last Spring I used Lord of the Flies with Terry Pratchett’s Nation–a great combo, I thought. What I was not prepared for was that I had to assist my junior English majors with a critical reading of LotF. I thought, “they’ve read this before, they can gobble it up with a few critical bites.” No. And I thought, “Holy crap! I can’t teach close literary exegesis TOO!!”

    I’m using the same two books again this semester, so we’ll see. But I am slowing the reading down and being more intentional about the critical strategies necessary in unpacking what I think of as a completely obvious book interpretation-wise. Am I enabling?

  3. Teresa Bunner says:

    Funny you should post this after my class today! Students were assigned the task of visually tracing Scrooge’s journey of change from the beginning of the novel to the end. Man did those 9th and 10th grade boys of mine struggle! They cut and pasted pictures of Scrooge and the other characters. “But how does that show Scrooge’s change?” I asked. Huffs and puffs and muttered words of indignation flew.

    They wrestled and wrestled, but came up miserably short of creating projects that were worth grading. One pair came really close to rocking it! It was the same two students who created a great project earlier in the year about choices and consequences. The others, well, not even close. And they kept asking “Is this right? Is this right? Is this right?” and when I would ask clarifying questions they responded ” I don’t get it! Just tell me the answer!” Sigh……

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