Make this be the year you raise the status of learning in your school from an act, to an art.
The past 10-15 year has seen an intense focus on quality teaching. Talk of effect sizes and standards of teaching have resuted in the development of a culture of teaching in our schools. Schools have become places where it’s all about the teaching. We see learning as an outcome of teaching. The premise has been that when teachers teach, learning happens. When teachers teach well, more learning happens.
But where is the student in this equation?
Look at the role description for the “teaching and learning” position at your school. In almost every school I visit this role involves ensuring quality teaching is happening and measuring that student learning outcomes have been met.
How are students contributing to their own learning?
An increased focus on quality teaching is a good thing. But this hasn’t been without its downside, as Nicole Mockler, associate professor of Education at the University of Sydney, highlights this issue in her research “what we really mean when we talk about teacher quality." She documents the rise of the term “teacher quality” in the print media. A term that is not always used positively. She points to the media consistently linking poor student performance with low quality teaching practice.
Teachers who are seen as solely responsible for learning, are also blamed when learning doesn’t occur.
Accompanying the development of a teaching culture, there has been a simultaneous rise in “passive learners”. Students who sit back and wait for learning to happen to them. To be “impacted” by improved teaching practice. Some students even say that the only way they’ll get better results is if they get a better teachers!
Somewhere along the way we’ve forgotten the critical role students play in their own learning.
By bring those paradigms together we create something new, insightful, and powerful. The skill of learning. It shifts the way we think and talk about learning from being something that we do, to being something we can learn to do well.
A teacher can provide beautiful feedback to students (effect size .73), but if the student ignores that feedback, it will have zero impact. Teachers can accurately target learning just beyond the student’s current abilities. But if students decide to take their path of least resistance and choose the easy route, then growth still won’t occur.
It’s like John Holt told us “Learning is not the product of teaching. Learning is the product of the activity of learners”.
We need to change the conversation. Skilful teacher practice is important. But it’s not the only part of the learning equation. Students need to become skilful learners too.
Let’s stop thinking of learning as the outcome of teaching. Learning is a process that students engage in to create new abilities. How they engage in that process is critically important.
Let’s acknowledge we have outstanding teachers, who understand the art of teaching. Now let’s focus on the learner. Let’s ask the question “what does quality learning look like”. What are the most effective ways learners can engage in the process of learning?
We have quality teaching. Now let’s have quality learning. In short, let’s develop learnership in our schools.
In next week’s blog we start a conversation about what you can do in your classroom and school to make this the year where you raise the status of learning form and act, to an art.
To find out more about Learnership - the skill of learning, visit www.jamesanderson.com.au/
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