Wednesday, February 4, 2015

How to fix education: Celebrating the coffee table.

Today was a big day. I learned something that I have been working on for over a year. This learning has moved my thinking on how to fix education forward. What did I learn?

We have to keep celebrating the coffee table.

(Mr. Barner, have you hit your head?) No, let me explain.

For the last year or so I have been batting around the idea of what it really means to learn. What are the steps? What do I have to know to be able to learn? What is the process of learning? Fuzzy questions, but good ideas. Today it all clicked. I was on that same Voxer group that has helped with many other ideas, and we were talking about learning to walk. I love to use the experience of learning to walk to justify the fact that everyone on this planet is born with a growth mindset. Again, as I have asked before, let's go over the process of learning how to walk. This time with bullet points:

  • I am a baby. I see humans around me moving independently on two appendages. 
  • Apparently, this is a thing. 
  • I decide to attempt this feat by finding an appropriately-heighted (not a word) assistive piece of furniture. 
  • I stand up.
  • My mom/dad/primary care giver celebrate wildly!!! I like this.
  • I decide to try this again and navigate around the coffee table.
  • My mom/dad/primary care giver goes celebrate wildly!!! I like this.
  • I decide I am too good for the coffee table and decide to take a step without the benefit of the appropriately-heighted-assitive furniture.
  • I fall down.
  • My mom/dad/primary care giver goes celebrate wildly!!! I like this.

Well, eventually our daredevil of a baby is able to walk independently, and the parents, of course, celebrate wildly.

Okay, let's look at this another way. 
  • I am a baby. I see humans around me moving independently on two appendages. 
  • Apparently, this is a thing. 
  • I decide to attempt this feat by finding an appropriately-heighted (not a word) assistive piece of furniture. 
  • I stand up.
  • My mom/dad/primary care giver says nothing.
  • I decide to try this again and navigate around the coffee table.
  • My mom/dad/primary care giver ask why I am not walking yet.
  • I decide I am too good for the coffee table and decide to take a step without the benefit of the appropriately-heighted-assitive furniture.
  • I fall down
  • My mom/dad/primary care giver give me a D- and tell me I need to work harder.
  • I finally walk, but not until after seven other peers. My mom/dad/primary care giver are glad I'm walking, but wish I would have done it much sooner.

(So, what Mr. Barner?) Well let's look at the difference between these two scenarios. The first looks at the process, and the second looks at the result. Education has a single-minded fixation on results. This is proved by the way we treat "data." What I learned is the result is less important that the process. What is important is that we celebrate the smaller parts of the process. When the kid pulls himself up using the coffee table they haven't walked yet, but they have made small steps forward. Even with huge support they have moved forward in the learning process. 

Now, we understand that we can't stop and throw a party to celebrate everyone's incremental learning. The Kool-Aid bill alone would ravage any classroom budget. But, is the celebration in noticing that the student went from not being able to do something to doing something? They haven't made it to something as final as the result, but they have improved the process of learning.

And, what's more is that they can use that improvement in their next learning.

So, the next time a student blurts out in your classroom, "Mr. Barner, (they will probably use your name, but, if you are a Mr. Barner, that would be cool.) I don't get it!" Don't say, "you need to do all ten problems." Say, "what about it don't you get." Start focusing on the process; not the result. What you will find is that a better process nets a better result.

Your thoughts are welcomed and encouraged,

Dane Barner

Particular thanks to @schmiaah and @lprallekeehn for direct influence in the formation of nearly all of the ideas in this post. #WWTSD

1 comment:

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