Real school change has to include a focus on student learning not teaching

by Steve Wyckoff on April 8, 2010

If we really want  real school change we have to consider how students learn, not just measuring traditional student learning. Students, in fact everyone, learns by doing. Ask anyone to recall their most memorable learning experiences and they will invariably tell you about doing something. I’ve written before about the steps involved in learning so I won’t rehash all of that. Suffice it to say that if the student isn’t emotionally involved in actually doing something they won’t learn. They may remember something for a test, but they haven’t learned it.

The student must be involved in setting their learning goals and developing their plan for reaching those goals are learning to be successful. Even more importantly the student must experience failure for learning to occur. That point at which a student fails and subsequently receives an explanation is the exact moment that learning occurs.

In schools however students are penalized for failing rather than encouraged to stretch their experiences, knowing that failure will occur. The research is clear, when we tell students that if they fail they are not  “smart” it dramatically reduces their motivation to try and learn new and challenging things.

Real school change must put student learning by doing as a primary focus. They’ll still do okay on standardized tests, and in fact will be much better prepared for life.

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