I see and hear these catch phrases all the time. Just Google ‘COVID Learning Loss’ and you’ll see what I mean. Here’s a sampling of some articles that point out how learning has been affected during the pandemic:
We’ve all been to school. Look at me — I’ve never left. So, we all think we’ve got a pretty good idea of what’s supposed to happen there.
Let’s review …
One of the historical goals of schools has been to provide students with enough knowledge of ‘stuff’ and ‘skills’ to be productive citizens once they graduate. To achieve this, students have historically been ‘consumers’ of information or content — they learned from the ‘knowledge keepers’ — our teachers. As curriculum evolved, new courses were created, teachers learned the content and then imparted this knowledge. Sort of the ‘sage on the stage’ kind of process. It was pretty much a unidirectional mode of information transfer.
In today’s world, there is still a need for a content expert who knows ‘stuff’ — a teacher who’s been to post-secondary and become a subject area or learning specialist. This need won’t change anytime soon — teachers continue to be an absolutely critical component of student success.
But times are changing …
In today’s world the role of the teacher IS fundamentally changing. Content is ubiquitous — we can find it just about anywhere on the internet in a virtual space accessible by a few clicks on your smartphone or a verbal question to SIRI. Content no longer resides solely in the domain of the teacher. In fact, students are often far better content masters than their teachers on any number of topics.
So, what does this mean for the traditional learning paradigm?
I’m a dreamer of sorts. I believe that every day we have the potential to live in an increasingly sympathetic world — a world where we not just tolerate our differences, but a world where we accept and celebrate each other. Some days I see progress, and other days I watch the news on TV.
I remember very few things from my teacher training in the mid-80s. One thing I actually DO remember spending a TON of time learning and implementing was a teaching model of Science education. The model outlined various actions to be accomplished — the ‘boxes’ that we were required to fill-in were called ‘teacher actions’ and ‘student actions’. It was elegantly simple, but also particularly time consuming to write out for every lesson. At the time, it seemed to make some good sense as it laid out the lesson really well — and for a newly minted teacher, I was grateful for the structure it provided me and my lesson planning.
However, even back then I felt like it was missing the point in a big way — it never considered the students as people with different traits, needs, emotions and perceptions. It was completely missing the importance of empathy.