Fixed mindset is a scary thing. It prevents us from seeing/hearing other options or opinions than the ones we have already selected. And if this option happens to be the idea of the teacher being the main source of information for students, I can understand how ridiculous learning facilitation sounds. Yet, in today’s world we have more information available than ever before and it would be unwise for any teacher to imagine this fact NOT having an effect on teaching practices.
We can’t (and shouldn’t) keep students in a vacuum where they don’t hear anything that is in contradiction to what they are being taught. This could only happen in a totalitarian world where just a single one truth (or correct answer) is accepted (Nina’s personal note: somehow this always makes me think about multiple choice testing, I am sorry!). This transfer of static facts is hardly learning, even though it can be teaching: transmitting our culture to the next generation. Of course, one purpose of formal education IS to preserve the culture. Yet the other, equally important purpose is to prepare students to face the world we know nothing about, the future. In today’s world, where the amount of information doubles with increasing speed, it is important to build strong thinkers and lifelong learners. And learning starts from wondering.
I can see how having just one single correct answer feels safer than having too many choices – but we really need to teach students how to choose wisely, because we cannot contain them from information outside. Their foundation for thinking and comparing must be wide and solid enough to sustain observing foreign ideas, and the framework of their learning must be strong enough to allow flexibility. Having the freedom to explore, but also safety to return is the same strategy a safely attached two-year-old uses: gradually moving in larger circles away from the parent, but returning to her/his lap when needed. How can we foster this same combination of freedom and safety in education?
While attending the AERO – Education Revolution Conference last weekend I admired the way different teaching-learning disciplines came naturally together. Differences were not emphasized, but the things we all shared: lifelong learning, free sharing of information and using communication for understanding. Negotiating the meaning of a word or concept happened frequently and spontaneously, because I cannot expect others to understand my subjective connotations. Why are we not using this tool more in education? I think we should.
Our students may be using the same words we do, but their understanding about it differs from ours, I can guarantee this. And because we are not attempting to create clones (I sure hope we aren’t!) , we should create lots of opportunities for negotiating the meaning (=personalized understanding) of the concepts that belong to our curricula, and thus provide students with the opportunities to reflect and create connections to existing knowledge and understanding. While thinking about student motivation to ponder and participate, one simple thing becomes clear to me. The ultimate question in investing my time and my effort in thinking and learning usually is: What’s in it for me?
What do you do to provide your students with this one important piece of making their learning more meaningful? How do you help them wonder?