November 29, 2011
Explaining is blocking active learning
Every week I have the honour to work with several schools to give
Dalton training to an unknown team of teachers somewhere in our country.
As a Dalton Consultant I work on free-lance base for
Wenke Dalton Consultancy/KPZ.
It often happens that I have the same kind of fundamental discussion.
Basic elements of the Dalton concept are always in the centre of the attention.
I try to challenge a school team to give their own interpretation of the three Dalton ‘cornerstones’:
responsibility – self reliance – cooperation.
Some time ago, a very nice colleague reacted very honestly and openly.
Elaborating the independency of pupils, he spoke about his worries. The motivation of the children in his class was low, the attention during the instruction was bad and he ended with his conclusion: “These pupils are not learning enough”.
I asked him to analyze his way of teaching and after short time most of the colleagues in this school came to the same conclusion that in their education
the teacher is the most active person. And in their opinion it was the best and most effective way to teach.
“Much instruction is the best way to teach”, they explained.
This attitude is a logical one.
Didn’t we all learn in our pedagogical institutes that a good teacher is the teacher who can explain the most difficult parts of the curriculum?
But there is still that main problem on the background of this discussion:
*pupils are not motivated anymore to listen.
*the attention of children is declining.
I have to provocate at that moment, to make my statement clear.
When I ask why a teacher is putting so much energy in instruction, the answer is always:
“When pupils don’t understand some assignment you have to explain, because that is the only way to help them”.
The crucial thing is of course: how can we make the children active and motivated?
I must admit that teaching is the activity of the teacher and it will be forever.
But learning is the activity of the pupil. No teacher can take over that activity!
Instruction is not the only way to fill the gap.
We have to arrange different instructional formats (teaching methods) to make the children active.
Are we able to realize that pupils nowadays belong to the E- generation?
The Dutch professor Wim Veen is using ‘Homo Zappiens’ for this new generation.
They consume information on their own way. They are used to calculators, television, Play Station, computers.
They sit in front of the television and they consume the products very quickly: if it is not interesting enough they simply switch to another programme.
And computers are their sixth organ.
The question is if the teacher happy with that development? But they can be happy that the remote control is not working in school.
Perhaps not, because even parents have problems to stimulate their own children to do their homework instead of sitting in front of the television.
But most likely you are the teacher of a whole group of such whiz kids.
It is not so strange that my Dutch colleague complained about the learning attitude of his students.
Students are used to be active themselves instead of long listening for information. They have the drive to explore. Listening to long instruction is for them like reading the instruction guide of a new computer programme. And no-one will do it, they all start to explore.
The first child that wants to read the instruction booklet before he/she wants to work with that programme has still to be born.
Students want activity, want to discover, do it themselves. That’s not a negative attitude, that’s real motivation.
And we teachers have to accept the changes in the consumption pattern of the audience in our classrooms. We are the professionals and that’s why we don’t want to serve them every day the same fast-food. Let’s be creative and make them real hungry.
Students want to be challenged to demonstrate their competences. They are not interested in the long demonstrations of the competence of the teacher. It will reduce their own competence.
We have to use our talents and it is not necessary to throw away everything from the former century.
Helen Parkhurst simply developed her Dalton concept on three basic needs of pupils :
• they must have the feeling to be safe and respected
• they must have the feeling to be competent
• they must have the feeling to be independent
It is time for a design of our education, based on these basic needs.
Senior Dalton Consultant