Over-Teaching?

Stephanie Madsen sent the following article to me via this link (which you can read here). The article is entitled “Why Preschool Shouldn’t Be Like School.” While this is dealing with four-year olds, and we have students who are much older (though sometimes do not act that much older), this comment struck me in the article:

“In other words, direct instruction made the children less curious and less likely to discover new information.”

I wonder about this for older children, too, and while most of our students are young adults, we get some of them, when they are first-year students anyway, who would be considered children. How much joy of learning has high school sucked from them? How can we restore the wonder of discovery of information? Perhaps direct instruction is something we need to think about moving away from in order to give students a chance to discover learning on their own.

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3 Responses to Over-Teaching?

  1. Robin Armstrong says:

    I like your point here, but i wonder if we’re too late for this. I wonder if the ‘school isn’t cool’ factor that seems to plague many kids during middle and high school is too hard to over come. I wonder if most students come here for the social rather than educational experiences. I don’t mean to sound jaded, but i’m guessing i do – even tho i still have faith in students this term i’ve lost a lot of faith in students as a group.

    In my SIS this year (japan) i have asked students to create a wiki glossary, writing on anything they want related to japan; considering that many of them came into this class loving anime, manga, hello kitty, sushi, and more, that this would let them explore freely. they’ve had very little interest in this – many students simply ignored this part of the course. I’d hoped it would rekindle their interest in learning and exploring because they literally could write on anything related to the topic of the course -AND, since this course is in its last semester of NOT being required, none of them had to take this class. did not work at all to excite them to explore.

    I’m all for trying to instill a love of the mystery of learning about anything you want because i still think libraries – entire buildings and institutions built on this principle- are amazingly cool and wonderful places. but its going to take more than limiting direct instruction and presenting them with opportunities to explore.

    I think that book we’re all reading is right about one big thing – we need to work on shifting the culture on our campus; maybe exploration rather than direct instruction should be a big part of that but it can’t be the whole thing.

    • gretchenmckay says:

      I guess what I would say to your SIS experience Robin is that you’ve not hit on it yet. Perhaps they don’t see your piece as integral to the class and just as an add-on that seems like more work and is not engaging. You have had plenty of “hits” in the past – seamlessly synching online work into your classes. This was the first time out with this class (right?) so perhaps it needs a bit of tweaking. I would like to talk to you about that class some time — not here on the public blog!

      I think we have to continue to think and fine tune ways that will engage them. I was pleased as punch in the Reacting Game debrief on Thursday from students commenting on the Rome Game. I sent them away when the game ended with an assignment to think and reflect on what they learned, then we all discussed it as a class. I was literally amazed at some of what they said they learned. Some of it was what I hoped (thankfully) but other things were a bonus — like the politics of today not being that different from then, that politicians will drop their principles for what is expedient and will help them, etc. I was hoping they would see the context of Roman cut-throatedness so that when we start seeing Augustus manipulating the people with his art and messages, they can understand why that would be. They, in the game, had to put down a mob! They noted all of that — but then they also noted these other things.

      Anyway. Just trying to encourage you to keep at it. There is no magic bullet and I think even if you did find it, it would not work for every class.

      • Robin Armstrong says:

        no magic bullet? oh darn.

        you make an excellent point about integration vs. add on. thank you for that- good for me to think about. i hope you get to do your jan term thing again with students and other faculty (i.e. ME) because i’d LOVe to have a forum to discuss with students what is engaging. i’d do it in a class, but by the time its done the semster is over and the students with whom i had the discussion wouldn’t benefit with those sorts of assignments….. i DO want to know what engages students … I keep trying different things with varying success.

        keep talking about the reacting to the past classes- quite inspiring. Some day i’ll even figure out how to do a music version of it… they sound sooo fun and profitable for the students.

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