Why Change (How You Teach)?

--Originally published at Flipped Learning

Created by Zach Groshell @ Education Rickshaw

As I was connecting and interacting with my PLN this week on Twitter, the image above quickly caught my attention. All across the country and globe, educators are crying out for education reform - reform in what classrooms look like, what student engagement feels like, and how educators can make the changes in their own classrooms.

This image is perhaps the best I have seen that demonstrates how students learn using a variety of learning and teaching strategies. Rather than the one size fits all approach of traditional lecture (or drill and kill approach), learning today consists of project-based learning, self-guided learning, collaborative group learning, standards-based assessment, and is infused with a variety of technology that grows farther than we can see. Learning is no longer confined to what students can take in and regurgitate on a test. No, it happens at various times and through various modes.

Yet, if the right-half of the image is so accurate of what teaching and learning SHOULD look like, why are so many educators resistant to changing from their traditional methods of instruction? While the answer is packed with numerous excuses and finger pointing of blame, the harsh reality is that teaching by methods demonstrated in the right-half is much more difficult. Pulling up a powerpoint, or wiping a transparency clean from last year is so much easier for me to do as a teacher. I've taught this way for 10, 20, or 30 years and it's easier for me to be prepared this way!

While I don't think I can argue against that statement, I do wonder where the student-centered mentality was lost. There is no doubt that preparing an engaging and innovative classroom today is far more difficult than in the past. Yet, it's also far more rewarding. Watching students work collaboratively, critically thinking about solutions, and finding creative ways to share their results is far more rewarding than an exam score. But for educators, it takes time to build a classroom environment that promotes these skills, while also trusting that students will take ownership for their learning.

As a flipped educator of over 5 years, I can admit I needed to learn how to relinquish the power of holding students accountable. I started by checking daily work with students and making sure they watched video lectures. What I quickly learned, though, was that students knew what they needed better than I did. Some could watch the first 5 minutes and be successful. Others need to watch the lesson 2-3 times before being comfortable. And ultimately, my goal was focused on students mastering a skill. What did it matter how much time they spent on the video if in the end they could demonstrate that mastery.

As a result, students needed me less...less of my instruction, less of my guidance, and less of my expertise. They needed me to provide the sandbox and the toys, but not tell them which toy to use. They needed help in developing communication skills, creativity, and character. They needed me to help them think about ideas differently and encourage them to take risks, even fail, and learn from their failures and successes. I realized the role I needed to play was much different from how I learned when I went to school. And designing these avenues for students and being prepared for the multitude of questions unrelated to math took me a lot of time to learn and master. It was not easy by any stretch of the imagination. But it was far more rewarding to witness students learn and grow throughout the semester.

And why did I decide to make that change? Why am I encouraging others to do the same? George Curous states it best in his blog The Principal of Change


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