Traditional Teachers Send the Wrong Message to Students

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This post appeared on another blog years ago, when I first started transitioning my class from traditional to student-centered practice–a class I called a Results Only Learning Environment. Today, we rehash the post, wondering if classrooms are changing, despite the stranglehold standardization and high stakes testing may have on them.

So, let’s rewind briefly. Then, please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Traditional Teachers Send the Wrong Message to Students

Traditional teachers, hammering students with homework, worksheets and tests, are teaching the wrong lessons and hindering students’ ability to learn.

Although I have every confidence that students in a Results Only Learning Environment excel, some struggle with the progressive nature of the ROLE.

In a survey, given to my students at the end of the first semester, a surprising 22 percent of students reported that they want homework and tests. Of course, this means that 78 percent prefer the way the student-centered ROLE functions, without these traditional methods. However, having one-fifth of my students say they’d be fine with old-style teaching is a concern.

The problem, I surmise, is that students are so tuned into the traditional world of points and percentages that they don’t know how to handle the freedoms of a no-grades, workshop-style, project-based class that requires them to evaluate their own progress and set learning goals accordingly.

Furthermore, students are so concerned about acquiring points on homework assignments for other classes that they sometimes disdain their projects, so they can complete the rote-memory activities my colleagues often assign. When I ask why they are doing a science or social studies homework assignment, instead of working on one of our year-long projects, I’m told that “it’s due next period, and if I don’t get it done, I’ll lose points.”

This creates a twofold problem. The most obvious one is that students aren’t learning for learning’s sake, when they are on a quest for points. Also, it puts me in a difficult spot, as I don’t like to remove the choice that the ROLE provides.

As I continue to ponder this conundrum, I realize one thing: Traditional teachers send the wrong message to students.

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Mark Barnes is the author of many education books, including Bestseller Hacking Education, part of his Hack Learning Series, books that solve big problems with simple ideas. Barnes presents internationally on assessment, connected education, and student-centered learning. Join more than 100,000 interested educators who follow @markbarnes19 on Twitter.
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