Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Learning: It's Too Much Work

This post is part of the 30-Day Blog Challenge from TeachThought. To learn more about the challenge go to

DAY 24: Which learning trend captures your attention the most, and why? 

I recently had a conversation with some of my students about making corrections on a lab report they had written. A report that had no "score" as of yet because the students had not completed the work to a "proficient" level. It had been peer reviewed multiple times, and I had given the students many comments on how to improve their reports, but they just hadn't done the work to improve them yet.

The conversation went something like this:

Me - "I saw that none of you have completed your corrections on the lab yet. Is there something that you had questions about?"

Student - "No, not really."

Me - "Is there another reason that you haven't done these corrections yet? Something I should know about?"

Student - "No, I just don't want to do them. They're too much work."

Me - "Well, I just want to make sure you understand that you have the opportunity to redo this work until it reaches proficiency, with no penalty for your previous attempts. You get that, right?"

Student (looking away, under breath) - "Yeah."

Me - "You don't sound very excited. Do you sometimes feel like you'd rather just do it once and have it done, regardless of how well you do it?"

Student - "Yeah, sometimes."

After this exchange, I continued to ask questions and eventually found out that they did have some questions about my comments. I worked with the students 1:1 for about 5 minutes each, cleared up their questions, and their corrections were done.

This is why I think the trend toward Standards-Based Learning is so important. My students, growing up on a steady diet of "once and you're done" grading have come to see education as a series of tasks they have to check off their list instead of a spiraling process that turns back in on itself over and over again. When given the opportunity to be successful in class, they cut corners because they're used to an educational system that values efficiency over depth of understanding. Standards-Based Learning is more than an alternative way to assess students, it helps students and teachers think about education in a completely different way.

SBL emphasizes learning as "work in progress."

SBL encourages students to think about their thinking.

SBL prompts teachers to consider the depth at which their students are learning.

SBL allows for multiple pathways to learn the same concept.

SBL makes learning goals visible for students.

SBL cultivates a growth mindset, in teachers and students.

This is what excites me most about Standards-Based Learning. It's more than just a "trend in education." It has the potential to shape how students view education for the rest of their lives. My hope is that eventually my students will not see learning so much as "work," as "work in progress."

Photo from Justin See on Flickr. Licensed through Creative Commons.

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