Underrating students’ capacity to learn

There is sufficient recognition that our current model of schooling underrates students’ ability to learn particularly those who sit outside of the bell curve. All too often the bar is too low or unrealistically high. Those who fail to meet the narrow measures are considered non-academic and thus, not bright. Yet outside in the real world, these students are highly creative and confident learners.

My colleague’s son was placed in the lowest math’s class at his primary school. He knows it and he doesn’t want to be there. Yet he was able to construct a sophisticated remote control Lego car without any adult assistance in less than 3 hours. He then wanted to learn how to programme the car, which he knew he wouldn’t be allowed to do during school hours. His classroom teacher has been made aware of his interest in Lego but that’s where personalised learning ends.

I’ve said before that we don’t do enough to recognise and leverage off student interests to engage and extent learning. We are seeing more and more that it is technology not the teacher, that is responsive to today’s learners.

Late last term I was out at one of our secondary schools and met an articulate Year 7 student. Jeremy  and his friends created an app aimed at helping them address their homework questions. I was impressed not only with the sophistication of the app but with their understanding of peer-to-peer learning. The question that continues to surface for me in all of these examples is ‘what is an appropriate learning pathway for these students in a traditional school environment?’

I am struggling to understand why we are still not able to let go of outdated curriculum constructs and why we are not listening to students. Remaining where we are and where we’ve always been not only entrenches the status quo but limits the possibilities for all learners.



One thought on “Underrating students’ capacity to learn

  1. Hi Greg – I couldn’t find this on Facebook but I did manage to share it with the coment below:
    “I very much agree with Greg Whitby regarding this topic. He speaks to the Ken Robinson quote about the need for transformation and not reformation. When are we going to get passionate enough to say, “Enough!”
    There is a better way than what worked before and, if we are honest, it never really did work for everyone.
    It is time to be the informed researcher in your classroom and with your classes. There are certain professional responsibilities required for keeping up to date with the best way to teach all students. And we, as teachers, leaders, school communities, need to come to terms with the reality that change is happening all the time whether we like that or not!”

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