What happens when school learning is “done learning”?

We collect data on our students to track their performance and achievement, yet what do we know about the long term impacts of our constructs of achievement on individual students? What does this performance and achievement have to do with life beyond school walls, now and in the future?

Every year, the goal placed on teachers is to successfully get students out of their classes and on to the next grade or course. Grade 12 teachers work especially hard to make sure students finally get out of the school.

This get-it-done mindset becomes the focused goal.

Short-Term-Goal Student: Teacher, what are we doing today?

Short-Term Goal Teacher: What am I doing with these students today?

End-of-Course Student: I’m glad I’m done with that.

End-of-Course Teacher: Whew. Done. Reflect, revise, next!

It seems like we’re constantly preparing for the next test or the next assignment leading to the final exam or project.

Most teachers don’t know what happens to students before entering their class, and don’t know what happens to them after they leave their class. Most don’t know well what is going on in the class right beside them or in the other classes that their students take. Teachers have plenty enough to deal with in their own classrooms.

We claim that our teaching is also for long term outcomes (good citizens, happiness, financial security), but where is the data to feed back into the local system to tell us what we could and should be doing differently?

What is working well? What isn’t working well?

Currently, our system is satisfied with students who achieve 50% (according to our measurements) of the stated goals. How’s that working for future employment and higher learning?

We have a system where mediocrity is acceptable. We don’t have a system set up for competency or mastery. We measure for not enough, passable, and well done. Testing purports to measure knowledge often with the assumption the test is application or is at least a determination of one’s ability to apply the supposed knowledge in a future real world situation.

The complexity of learning and knowing and doing is reduced to a simple, manageable system where the learning is “visible.” Without a feedback system from the future, the myths of the merits of the way we “learn” and test continue. This shouldn’t surprise us as the current feedback from students who speak of being bored and disengaged with irrelevant content, is blamed on the defects of the students, rather than the defects of the system. No one really appreciates critical feedback.

If we are serious about the more global goals of students becoming responsible, participatory citizens, entrepreneurs, employees, loving parents and more, then the smaller daily goals need to fit into that.

As a teacher with 28 rambunctious grade 9 students, I know I want a controlled space. The difference is, I want the students to control the space, to control the learning, to control the reflection and assessment. I want them setting learning goals now as a habit for life.

We need to be done with the false school construct of what it means to learn.

What I want to get done, is to care for students and encourage them to care, to get them back to a place of curiosity where “done with that course” is replaced with “I wonder why, if, how come, what…?

It doesn’t make much sense to talk about the ultimate life goals we want for our students later, if we’re not learning to live them right now. Let’s get this done.

professional learner, university instructor

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