What is Learning?

If I don’t know what I’m teaching, how can I teach it?

This was a great question stated by a few students directed to myself, in both my Adobe Photoshop and Intro to Programming classes. Taken aback by the boldness of the way the question was presented (i.e. that of an accusatory tone) I subsequently knew that my students had learned something.

I have blogged about the sweet spot before but this is different. This is seeing learning as it is born. This is amazing (for me)! This is the acknowledgement of how students learn when they do not know it and may even be resistant towards it.

Learning, growing,  and sharing can happen individually, from a teacher to a student, a student to a teacher, et al. This was all of those and more wrapped into one! I immediately challenged the students (in several different conversations that followed) about whether this was right or wrong. The students’ consistent response was, “THIS IS WRONG!” Both students even went on to tell me that it [learning] wasn’t supposed to happen this way. I challenged them by asking, why not? I mean, if they are learning why does it matter how that happens?

I followed these conversations with an informal meeting (i.e. conversation if you will) with Dr. Tennant (Principal), Mr. Witter (Director of Curriculum & Instruction), myself and five students. [Note: All of the students I asked are in both classes. Three of the five had previous discussions with me. All are performing better than average in their respective course.] The duration of the meeting was approximately one half hour and was filled with non-stop exploration. I facilitated the discussion around hearing all of the students’ points of views about learning in my class. Dr. Tennant and Mr. Witter asked questions to encourage the students to learn even more about their experiences in learning.

One of the students’ point of view included his concern for learning from his challenges. He feels that correction, or assistance, when faced with a challenge during his learning experience (i.e. when he needs help) should come from the teacher [only?]. He expressed his uncertainty for assistance from [any] other sources. Have you ever faced this issue? I think students should discern which resource will assist them and which will distract them. Knowledge is power!

What does help mean? In addition to discerning resources, I think the learner needs to define learning and then define what help consists of in order to maximize their potential. Other feelings were expressed but all in all this discussion helped me realize that this talk needs to happen more often. Moreover, it shouldn’t be confined to one course, one teacher, or one type of student. This talk should be limitless in order for our students to maximize their potential.

Dr. Tennant quoted Benjamin Franklin towards the end of the of our discussion and it will stick with me forever.

“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”
~Benjamin Franklin

 

 

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7 thoughts on “What is Learning?

  1. Brooke says:

    Thanks for sharing, Desmond! Here’s my question: Why do our students feel that the only way to learn is to ask a teacher for support? I’m assuming it’s because this is instilled in them from a young age. I wonder if a younger student would respond the same way or if they would seek help from resources on the web. Are your students afraid to “fail,” or do they just want to get the answer as quickly as possible?

  2. dhasty01 says:

    Brooke, that’s a great question! I believe they feel like this because that’s where the instruction used to come from. I also agree that it is instilled from a young age. Asking younger students would be something I would like to try. Because of their nature (our younger persons) I don’t think they would stop at asking a teacher especially if their friend knows how to do something.

    I think our students represent both sides. Some of them are afraid to fail and some are only interested in the answers. In my opinion, the latter is frightening and grounds for a whole new post. Thanks!

  3. Bravo to you for facilitating such an important conversation. You are clearly skillful at empowering your students!

  4. […] you think you’re smart? This is how I opened my second discussion on learning with five freshmen students at Boys’ Latin of Philadelphia Charter School last month. My […]

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