Divorced from learning

The learning process is an individual one; one that requires a person to ask pressing questions about the world around them focusing in on their interests for the sake of learning.

Do we know how to be self-directed learners?

Can we model for students how to start with a question, finding answers in a variety of places, and pulling together all of the information to create a product that displays what we have learned?

How do we recognize this within ourselves as a driving force for new knowledge?

Being told how to do it

Do you like to be told what to do?  How about having someone look over your shoulder every minute to make sure you are doing it right?  Do the students we teach like this if we ourselves do not?  Managed learning really isn’t learning at all.  I have changed my point of view over the past two years because I have realized that what I learn for myself is my learning.  I own it.  I value it.  I am willing to share it.  While there is a need to have direct instruction, it should be minimal to allow students to venture in the “wonderment” side of learning.  Stimulate their thinking by asking questions that are open ended without a clear answer or path to get to that answer.  To do this a teacher has to become a coach and coach students through the learning process offering them support when needed, questioning them often to clarify their thinking, and ask them to reflect on their learning.  In contrast, scaled learning at every step divorces students from the real process of learning.

Divorced learning is characterized by classrooms that force students into a learning process where thinking is minimal and their creation of knowledge is rote memory practice.  Not all classrooms are alike, and realize this as I am typing.  What causes divorced learning?  Standardized tests that force teachers to teach to it so that their “score” at the end of the school year is in the excellent range.  Is the teacher really worried about deep learning or having a favorable review?  I think the answer to that is obvious.  The learning process is simply divorced from the content because having the facts that the standardized tests are testing is better than kids knowing how to learn.  With so much structure, how do students really learn?

Teachers as learners

As a teacher, my interest lies in giving kids methods to create new knowledge and how to find information.  So, I am a coach and as a coach it is my job to have a vision for learning and helping students to understand the learning process.  As a teacher I

  • continuously search for bleeding edge teaching and learning methods
  • read other teachers points of view
  • subscribe to blogs that help me learn
  • follow other teachers on Twitter
  • follow my own learning process religiously

Teachers as learners extends, for the most part, to professional development instances that are small shots of learning that usually doesn’t benefit the teacher.  Again, this is a general statement and teachers do find PD valuable.  Personal PD is more valuable than contrived instances with the hope that teachers take away something valuable for themselves.  Personal PD is self-directed learning and the teacher becomes the learner.  What does this mean for students?

  • Model how to learn
  • Reflect on your own learning process
  • Create learning products
  • Show how to find information
  • Let students struggle with their learning process


How do you learn?  Do you need overt structure to learn?  Is it difficult for you to synthesize your learning?  How do you innovate and authenticate your own learning?

Let Kids Rule the School – NYTimes.com.

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