What can the NFL’s most boring Super Bowl show us about better teaching and learning?
Educators are moving forward. No longer needing to be convinced of the problems, more leaders than ever are open to talking about (tough) solutions that will actually produce results. My team and I have been given the honor and privilege of executive coaching, institutional consulting, and team development, all of which have begun to transform at scale.
Even how grades are generated, typically at the complete discretion of the professor, is all over the map. Some weight, some curve, some give extra credit, some inflate, some put outcomes over numeric values, some base evaluation off of a single exam, others weigh participation as heavily as course outcomes, and on and on. In other words, grades are different to almost everyone. Yet we all seem to buy into the representative nature of grading, ignoring the elephant in the room.
Most companies never ask for a transcript, and for the few who do, it is only for those seeking their first job out of college. (Working inside education may be an exception.) After that, grades mean almost nothing. What companies instead seek are the things that grades, which become so easily gamed by both students and teachers, can diminish. After all, if the grade is all that matters, then trying new things and failing (actually promoting learning) will be negated. Teaching to a test, jamming information into short-term memory only to be lost a few weeks later will be the norm. Critical thinking will be lost. Problem solving based on context will be supplanted with algorithm practice absent of context.
Teaching today is far more about classroom management than it is about actually teaching leading to learning. But when you add in Common Core requirements, newly defined elements of "rigor", high stakes testing, the political and process-based rules setup by people who have often never been in a classroom, as well as the operational issues needed to organize a grouping of people, teaching and learning is often quite strangled - becoming almost impossible.
For those of you creating workshops of your own, we found some amazing benefits to practicing what we preach. This is a major differentiator for the Institute, actually leveraging brain science, learning research, and more as we learn and contextualize. We utilized the most effective practices from cognitive science, persuasion, and perception strategies in each session. From Interleaving to pattern finding to intentional creation of norepinephrine / dopamine / endorphin moments, we saw the power behind these learning frameworks. Participants had the opportunity to review and reflect often. Attendees also networked like crazy, establishing a community of practice that will follow them home. In other words, I am confident in saying that we all learned. I am also confident that learning will stick.
I don’t want my students to say that I lecture, instruct, or profess. Those are all so unidirectional, it makes me lament. This is one of the major problems with education today – the person at the front of the classroom (and it’s almost always at the front), spewing information upon students with an expectation that they will simply soak it all up and then somehow learn. They often talk instead of listening. They seem to inform far more than creating shared meaning (leading to understanding).
Unfortunately, we have a lot of historical baggage to contend with, making real learning much harder than it needs to be. We have generations of practitioners doing the only thing they know how to do (that which was modeled by former instructors), despite so much research and evidence suggesting a major pivot is in order. But we’re getting there.
I couldn’t do what my mind was screaming to do which was to yell through the rant explaining that of COURSE it hadn’t worked! The way he went about implementing it was ludicrous! He had coupled poor classroom management skills with a half-baked attempt at a learning model he didn’t even fully understand, so obviously it hadn’t worked!
Spend 3 days waxing on and waxing off, brushing up and brushing down. Be sure to do this for 10-12 hours, each of those 3 days. Then, get someone to explain how that specific stroke is for blocking, punching, etc. Now, spend another week or so going through those movements while standing on a tree stump. And finally, get in the ring with black belts who have trained for years / decades in your favorite martial art and fight. Just give it a go. After your brief hospital stay, come back to me and let’s talk.