January 22, 2012

Traditionalists teaching the wrong lessons

Traditional teachers, hammering students with homework, worksheets and tests, are teaching the wrong lessons and hindering students' ability to learn.

Although I have every confidence that students in my Results Only Learning Environment are learning, some are struggling with the progressive nature of the ROLE.

In a survey, given to my students at the end of the first semester, a surprising 22 percent of students reported that they want homework and tests. Of course, this means that 78 percent prefer the way the ROLE functions, without these traditional methods. However, having one-fifth of my students say they'd be fine with old-style teaching is a concern.

The problem, I surmise, is that students are so tuned into the traditional world of points and percentages that they don't know how to handle the freedoms of a workshop-style, project-based class that requires them to evaluate their own progress and set learning goals accordingly.

Furthermore, students are so concerned about acquiring points on homework assignments for other classes that they often disdain our projects, so they can complete the rote-memory activities my colleagues often assign. When I ask why they are doing a science or social studies homework assignment, instead of working on one of our year-long projects, I'm told that "it's due next period, and if I don't get it done, I'll lose points."

This creates a twofold problem. The most obvious one is that students aren't learning for learning's sake, when they are on a quest for points. Also, it puts me in a difficult spot, as I don't like to remove the choice that the ROLE provides.

As I continue to ponder this conundrum, I realize one thing: education's traditionalists are teaching the wrong lessons.