Tag Archives: Learning theory

But Do I Have To?

Do we have to learn this?

When I’m teaching real estate courses one of the questions I get asked frequently is “Are we going to have to do this in practice/real life?”  (It might not be a surprise that it most often comes up during math exercises.)

It’s a good question, of course. It’s also a hard one to answer honestly because sometimes “it depends.” So I will often put my tongue in my cheek and reply “Yes, at least once–when you take the final exam at the end of the course.”

I recently finished reading a series of articles on student engagement and motivation that I thought created several important perspectives in relation to that frequently asked question. I was attracted to the series based on a teaser suggesting it’s important to “teach your students how to fail.” Now that’s an interesting concept–and one I’m still exploring.

But what followed was  the suggestion to “teach students to value learning, not performance.” That statement forced me to wheel my chair back and stare at the screen for a while. I admire the simple elegance of that suggestion.

For years we’ve met at the altar of an adult learning model that suggested we (educators/trainers) only have value when we are involved in “performance-based” training. Our lesson plans have to have “action words” in those behavioral objectives.  “At the completion of this course, the student will be able to…”

I remember having my cage rattled quite a few years ago by an instructor who suggested “writing behavioral learning objectives is arrogant and presumptuous–what right do you have to decide what students are going to learn in your classes?” It’s probably fair to label him an extremist, but he makes an interesting point. As if to reinforce his point, I’ve had a number of occasions when a former student has contacted me and thanked me for something he or she learned in my class–and I don’t remember teaching it.

Our obsession with performance (including how students perform on tests) may have some unintended results. I listened to a student at the start of a recent class introduce herself with the observation she “was tired of taking classes and learning.” I thought it was a very sad statement. But I also think she’s wrong. She’s not tired of learning. I think she’s tired of being taught.

Too often our systems of education remove the joy of learning. If we can’t figure out how to put it back in, we ought to at least look at some ways to allow it!

 


 

To read the articles mentioned visit Teachers Training International.