Monday, December 26, 2011

Allowing Learning to Happen

During the teacher training this week (which I am continuing to love), Mrs. Das told an interesting tale about a man who thought he could be helpful by assisting a butterfly out of its chrysalis. Why let it struggle. So he slit it open and the butterfly tumbled out. But then what?

Many parents and teachers try to help children and students through obstacles by doing the work for them. Their knowledge and skill is second nature and they want to transfer it to their children, so they can get frustrated when a child struggles to own this knowledge independently. Impatient, or maybe just out of a wish to be helpful, they finish the problem or give the answer before the student has time to do the work. "This is why masters are not always good teachers," said Mrs. Das.

Her classroom strategy? "Wait time," she says. "Give the students time to think before filling in the answers." She also reminds teachers that it isn't what the teacher teaches but what the student learns.

Helping a butterfly out of the chrysalis actually impairs the butterfly, she won't acquire the wing strength she needs to fly, her wings might be misshapen, and she might even die. Though a student will survive heavy handed teaching, something still might die: their own critical thinking, their enthusiasm to learn. Students need to have freedom and guidance to make necessary connections in their brains if they are going to be life long learners. As hard as it is to stand back, sometimes it's better to watch them struggle to find answers on their own.

This article in Psychology Today sheds light on the phenomenon.

I look forward to seeing how we can apply this understanding in the classrooms of all our pilot projects.

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