As we grapple with what a student-centered classroom actually looks like in practice, it clearly involves a real shift in our thinking.
Robert Fried points out in The Passionate Learner that “the difference is roughly comparable to that between the Ptolemaic and Copernican views of the solar system.” But as he points out, most of us were raised in one belief system, so even though we acknowledge that the new system should be different, it is still difficult to make that shift. And as he indicates, both parents and students are compliant in this system.
“Adults (administrators, teachers, parents) often find such a view comforting in its lack of ambiguity of who is ‘in charge and who is ‘accountable’ for effectively ‘delivering the curriculum’ Most kids accept it, too, for it reduces their responsibility for motivating themselves and allows them to play at the game of ‘kids versus grown-ups’ whenever they detetect a lapse of authority.”
Sticking to a pre-established system is definitely easier for everyone. And while I tend to agree that kids “accept it” I just wonder how much of it is due to their relinquishing responsibility and how much of it is due to their being trained into compliance from early grades of school, and how much of it is just part of the status quo.
Susan Morgan twittered about a series of student responses to a blog post asking their view of 21st century schools, and it’s interesting to see the variety in their responses but also their sense of how schools aren’t serving them well.
Some of them view the 21st century school as sort of a shiny school of the future, with built in computers, and modern conveniences, reminiscent of how we may have envisioned the future during the 50’s. But other students’ responses reflect an awareness of a different way of engaging with learning evolving, like this astute response:
“School hasn’t changed much, except for the attitude and culture that has been created by the students and faculty. Kids aren’t really afraid of their teachers anymore, and there is more interaction between students during the school day. More and more, we are encouraged to talk in class, and work in groups, do group projects, and peer edit. However, there is still a lot of sitting in class and listening and taking notes. This might be the most basis form of attaining information and learning, but the information is often lost very quickly, unless the notes are revisited. However, the revisiting usually occurs right before a test and is quickly forgotten, the space emptied to make room for more information that will be disposed of just as fast.
It seems that the information I retain the best, is that which is accompanied by pictures, labs, or small anecdotes. We all have different styles of learning that work best, but when all of the senses are involved, the information can be remembered in many ways and on many different levels. It is, therefore, my home[sic] that as the 21st century rolls on, that teaching and learning continues to progress. Technology helps, allowing for visual aids and fast access to information, but it is important to ensure that the vast amount of information is accompanied with a connection, a picture, something that will help students remember the problem, equation, or concept and be able to incorporate it into the real world.”
So what I’m wondering is–how do we encourage students at younger grades to expect more from their education and to be more active participants? Do our students like this current system, or do they, like the students above, see the need for something to be different?
If they are in high school already and used to the “old solar” system, what scaffolding do we provide to help them make the shift and ask for more? How do we empower them?