Sunday, April 26, 2015

Doing your best may involve doing less?

I recently read the blog post linked below about education in Finland. It is a reflection from an American teacher who spent time in Finland's classrooms as part of a Fulbright research assignment. Much has been made about the education system in Finland since the country has ranked near the top of international benchmark tests on student achievement. It seems there are those who would have us believe schools in the U.S. are inferior to those in Finland or Singapore or other countries where test scores are higher than they are here in the States. However, I don't believe test scores provide enough information to compare the quality of schools to one another, and for the most part I believe comparisons like these are counter-productive.

11 Ways Finland's Education System Shows Us that "Less is More".

The overall theme of the Finland post was that the learning culture is not the pressure-cooker that it is here in the U.S. Here teachers are jumping through all sorts of hoops in the name of better learning. There is pressure from administrators, politicians, parents, the media, you name it. The perception is constantly reinforced in the media and public discourse that schools and teachers could and should do more. And no doubt there are some schools and teachers that need to do more. But shame, embarrassment, and high-pressure tactics are poor strategies to create positive change. A better solution is for all schools to strive to improve, regardless of how effective they are currently. We need educators with a growth mindset who are filled with purpose and working to improve opportunities for students.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Make learning relevant without the 'hard sell'

If you feel like you need to explain to your students why your lesson is relevant, then maybe you need to rethink the learning culture in your classroom. It's not that relevance isn't important. We all know that students long to know why certain content matters. "Why do we have to learn this?" is a question every teacher has faced. But the problem is that explaining relevance is almost never good enough. The reasons for learning should be more obvious and compelling. Our schools need to make learning irresistible. If a teacher must explain why it's relevant, perhaps students lack the desired ownership for learning.

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