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Make, not take

Posted on: January 5, 2016

The best way to learn is to make something, not take it.

Much of teacher professional development in pedagogy still focuses on showing teachers how to do various things that their students can take away. For example, think about the how-tos on better slides, more thorough rubrics, and more “engaging” activities. These put the control and learning in the hands and minds of teachers.

Teachers already know that the best way to learn is to teach. This is how they become content and skills experts. As they do this, they forget what it is like to be a learner and to struggle with learning.

Teachers need to relearn how people learn. For example:

They also need to learn how take advantage of the fact that their students are already reading, writing, and creating in platforms like social media. For example:

I have written previously about why it is important to flip who the content creator and teacher are. Briefly, the reasons include:

  • Activating mental schema
  • Visualising thinking
  • Processing and reprocessing content
  • Creating cognitive dissonance
  • The audience effect
  • The proximity effect
  • Providing direct, purposeful experiences

All these (and more) contribute to what teacher educators call active learning processes. Teachers know this latently, but often resort to formulaic teacher talk because that is how they were taught and it seems efficient.

Such didactic thinking is losing currency in a world where you can learn in a click or a tap. Learners will not stand (or sit) for it. Why should they when can learn it online at their own time or at a tuition centre on paid time?

What teachers might fail to realise is that passive consumption is a result of spoon-feeding. It takes little or no effort on the part of the students and they become dependent on it. They become so dependent that teachers often tell me this is sometimes the biggest barrier to change, even bigger than high-stakes exams, fixed curricula, or unsupportive school culture.

So what is a teacher to do? Stop. Stop simply giving so that students take. Make them make. Teach them to think, share, critique, and reflect.

You cannot take a difference. You can only make a difference.

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