I just had a conversation with a teacher in which the fundamental question that has to be asked and answered is: How do students engage in relevant learning experiences? We already know the answer.
Compulsory learning does nothing for the student. In fact, it demeans the entire goal of learning and the intrinsic motivation to do so. Going through my preservice teaching classes, much discussion revolved around intrinsic vs. extrinsic motivation to learn. Extrinsic, from my point of view, learning is achieved when I give a student a reward – candy, bookmark, computer time. Intrinsic motivation is learning because the student is compelled to do so. To compel a student to learn means the learning experience is not contrived.
Contrived learning is the lesson plan that structures every step of what to learn and how to learn it. The teacher, knowing the easy path is giving the student everything they need to learn, writes down the steps to be followed. Students know they are not really learning. As I frequently reiterate to myself, learning is messy. At times there is a straight forward process to learning though, more often than not, there is no process, no steps to follow, and certainly no plan.
Real world learning is the only way we will get students to remain engaged but this means a shift in teaching. The shift is from teacher centered to student centered. Many claim to be student centered in planning, teaching, and assessing, but the reality is that we, as teachers, do what is easiest. It is easy to lecture, use the teacher manual, use online textbook resources, and download content. However, we already know that the degree to which the content is learned is much deeper than traditional teaching models. The same mantra is repeated in spite of this and that is there is too much content to cover and little time to teach all of it. We cannot call downloading of content teaching. We can call it a speech with information but no student is really engaged as a teacher speaks to class for an entire period. Teaching would involve inquiry by asking important questions to solve real life problems today, and not just creating the presentation that show regurgitated content.
We already know the answer to high quality teaching, it is transforming ourselves to do it.