Many of our educational foundations are false realities. We create either things to force students to do things (compliance) or scare them that if they don’t, bad things will happen (fear). Whether it’s grades, detention, points, getting into college, etc., we need better reasons for students to buy in and do amazing work. If we really want our education to be transformational for all students, we have some basic things to address. And these foundational things have nothing to do with integrating technology, standardising learning outcomes, high expectations of assessments, or other things that gets attention in education, nowadays.
I realize that unless we address pedagogy, but more importantly teachers mindset, all those instrumental things won’t change a thing! So, what are these basic things (5) that are related to a pedagogy mindset that will help us transform the learning experience for all our students?
Relationship is the most important aspect of teaching (interpersonal competence)! I hear this a lot. But we need to make sure that relationships become the first and foremost aspect of all teacher training, all professional learning and all instructional approaches. If teachers don’t get this and focus on it consistently, nothing else instructionally will matter and nothing will be transformed. Literally all aspects of 21st century and transformational learning will be based on relationships. I suggest that we make relationship building the core of our instructional pedagogy and on-going professional learning. In reality very little attention is given to the art of relationship building during teacher education programs, teacher induction programs or most professional learning.
Belief in students! There are two types of teachers. There are those that believe in students and those that don’t. Sounds simple right? It seems like you have to break the rule or traditional expectation in order to create a learning environment where students know that their teachers believe in them. In an era of more project-based approaches that include choice, student voice, tech use and real application, it will be our belief in students that will be the dividing line. If we don’t believe, none of these things will matter or be realized. But if we do, amazing and professional work can be produced by students of all ages. Call it expectations or what you will. But it seems believing that students can and will do things – especially big, amazing things – is essential. Students know inherently if you believe in them.
Operate from empowerment! Highly motivated and succesful learning can only come from students that are engaged in projects and activities that are meaningful, personal, real and that take them places. I know this is tough. But as long as we approach our instruction with the priorities being on points, grades and assessment as the starting point, we’re doomed to never be transformational. We have to start with the focus on creating opportunities for our students to pursue higher level thinking through areas of personal interest, engagement and project pursuits. If we approach learning as based on earning or losing points we are never going to contribute to intrinsic motivation and real success. I know we have system issues here that have to be addressed. But if we focus on engagement in meaningful and real life learning students can do incredible, professional and real world work. I assume that many smart people can figure out how to score, grade and assess it.
Let students explore their interest! I believe all humans have interests and passions. Everything we read, write, present and pursue will be far better if it’s related to our passions or areas of interest. But more importantly, we need to tempt and educate students to maximize their interests. A lot is written about passion and the connection to learning, education and schools. After all, many schools has successfully decreased the passion, creativity and inquiry from most students in an early age. To be honest, we need to re-visit our education and learn to not lose that essential element of feeding students’ natural inquiry (embrace curiousity) instead of eliminating it (embrace standard behaviour). Students’ interests will change and evolve. But we have to make sure that we will use their passion and interests as foundations to connect and engage in learning. This can only really be done if we continually connect their interests to higher level thinking, skill acquisition and mastery.
roles and responsibilities
Give students real roles and responsibilities! Students have expertise. Students have skills. Students have a need to facilitate. We only need to create and foster the environment where that is inherent. If we want them to assume real and responsible roles in their careers, they need to experience this now. We have to transfer ownership. All students need to serve a purpose. And again, the purpose cannot be about points, grades, graduation or college. The purpose has to be immediate and it has to be real. When pursuing more relevant and real world work, there are natural needs that develop. These turn into roles and we need to have students serve in those roles. Give them responsibility, create the environment needed and coach them as a peer.
I hope this will encourage you to critically reflect on your teachers mindset. At least I did on mine. I realised that all those instrumental things won’t change a thing! So, I became aware that our mindset is the most important thing to make great learning possible. And because I love great learning I want to contribute to the development towards a pedagogy mindset that will help teachers to transform the learning experience for all our students. That’s trenducation!