Today I’m happy to share with you this guest post from Michael Gorsline, M.A. He’s a parenting coach and a child and family therapist who enjoys helping families make life more rewarding.
He blogs about his approach and strategies at his site, Awareness * Connection, and for the GTDtimes. Michael’s post is in response to my post yesterday, “Should We Pay Our Kids to Learn?”
Kids are ALREADY motivated to learn. It is part of how human beings are wired. Even chimps will solve puzzles for the challenge without any reward.
The reason we are tempted to pay students to learn (which the research is clear is counterproductive) is that we don’t go to the trouble to find ways to show them how the learning we propose is pertinent in practical ways for their lives.
Doing so takes more work, more skill, and more thought on the part of both the teacher and the school system. As school curriculum is arrived at via political processes, and these processes are complex and bureaucratic in nature, it is not too surprising that we end up with simplistic solutions, like testing the cr** out of kids to “raise standards,” and coming up with sweeping programs with clever names designed to look like they are doing something, and which are mandated while not funded.
The programs are analogous to the Department of Homeland Security taking your fingernail clippers away to make you feel safer. It doesn’t address the actual problem, but it supposed to look like it does.
I don’t know of any easy answers. I only know from my training and experience in both education and psychology that the authors (see yesterday’s post) are talking about research that is very well established, and that is important. I also know that for instruction to be effective you need:
1) To SHOW kids and discuss with them how the learning in question will be practically useful to them.
2) Curriculum that is actually practically useful (there is no help for irrelevant curriculum).
3) A good relationship with the teacher. You can’t just “deliver” instruction without a relational context. Kids will work harder for someone that really knows them, and that has a bit of time to relate to them as a person rather than as a curriculum-swallowing automaton. Having some time to address how the child actually learns best is also important.
4) Some choice for kids re how, and what, they learn. They don’t like being told exactly what and how to learn any more than you want your boss to micro-manage how your deliver a certain result. In other words, provide parameters and let them make some choices between those.
Class sizes, size of school and whether you pay a decent enough wage to attract bright, creative people into teaching are among many other important variables.