Trust The Children

Friday, September 10, 2010

Why is Instruction Boring, whether at home or in the system?

It's been quite a while since I posted something here. It's not because I don't type a lot, or write a lot, its' because, you don't grade me and this blog isn't a strategic part of my degree. And that is terrible. So I need to repent and change. I am older now, slower and have more to do than I ever thought I would. I am long since out of familiar patterns of accomplishment, and in what Vygotsky calls, "The zone of proximal development", which is basically anything that is NOT the comfort zone.

I have these major authors who I have come to respect, because, at least over the last 2 years, their ideas have stuck. They have not gone away. I use their ideas all the time, and our online instruction is a cut above others out there because of these ideas.

So I asked my self the question: Why is instruction boring? I ask this question all the time, because frankly, I don't want to create boring instruction if I can avoid it. And in a book that you might not think had much to do with the topic, I found some answers. The book is titled, "Death by Meeting" and the author is Patrick Lencioni.

Anyway, I made this list of answers to that question, from his book and a few other sources. I thought I might share as part of my penance So here goes:

Instruction is boring because:

1) Most often it lacks drama or conflict.
2) It doesn't answer the question, "What is at stake?" or in other words, "if you don't know this what is going to go haywire in your life?" What is at stake if you don't get this.
3) Teachers don't mine for conflict. I don't mean encouraging "contention" I mean encouraging different points of view and negotiated them against a common family value.
4) Teachers don't reinforce engagement. Teachers reinforce finding the right answer, instead of rewarding students for finding, expressing and possessing different "questions". Like Cheri Toledo said, "If we can teach them to ask questions, and give permission for their questioning, we set the stage for critical thinking to occur." We need not be afraid of critical thinking, because if we don't have the answers as parents, we get to study something else of interest WITH our kids.
5) It lacks real world context. This is simply helping our kids see how one thing relates to another thing. That biology is related to math and related to history too.
6) It lacks personal relevant challenge. A 13 year old worries about acne and might be interested to know that Napoleon did too. But we all have to get over it. And that is a challenge. Besides it's cool learning about math so you can build a workshop on your property and build an airplane with your dad.
7) Teachers too often teach about the topic instead of the persons relationship to the topic. "How does this topic mean a hill of beans to me" is what kids want to know. The great teachers can answer that question.
8) Because it lacks, imagery, surprise, amazement, and meaningful practice so that kids get better at something and know it.
9) When it is not set in the context of the kid's lives. They don't live in school really, no matter how much the government wants to have that control. They also live at home, at church, at work, with their friends, parents and cousins, in their hobby life, sports, clubs and just in the neighborhood. If you want instruction in your "classroom" to stay in your classroom and go nowhere else, then don't teach it framed in these other places kids live. But if you want your instruction to be used outside of your classroom, frame it in these other places as you teach it.

I need to go, but my next post will be some ideas about Why instruction is ineffective? or at least a few possible reasons that lead to that.

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