Back when I was in grad school working on my M.Ed., I had to do one of those philosophy papers on my personal teaching philosophy. All my classmates whined and groaned, but as someone with a philosophy degree, I take that kind of assignment very seriously. In the end, I decided one thing for sure out of that assignment, that I did not want to teach students, but wanted to teach learners.
Yea, uh, okay. What is the difference? To me, I looked at the root of the words. “Student” is based on the root “study” while “Learner” is based on the root “learn”. Do I want the kids in my room to be studying or learning? I choose learning, therefore I need to create an environment where learning can happen instead of studying.
Yea, uh, okay. What does that mean? To be honest, not sure. The first thing I did four years ago is banish the word “student” from my vocabulary. That started a philosophical change in the way I approached teaching. I could not allow myself to call the people in my classroom “students”. By forcing a change in language (key Wittgenstein and his language games here folks) I changed my thinking about what I was doing.
Did it work? The first year I would say no. It was a failure. I taught like I had been taught. It sucked. I got more comfortable with the vocabulary though, and it make me more careful. I kept working at it. After year 4, I can say I am much much better at learning in the classroom instead of studying. That is good. I am not there by any means though.
So what prompted this posting today? In my Reader, up popped this post today by Scott McLeod. And I read it with great zeal. It mirrored some of my long time thinking. And there was the terrific chart in it that clarified what a learner was and what a student was.
|Relationship with educators||Students are employees, required to obediently follow instructions.||Learners are citizens with a vested interest in the learning society.|
|Relationship with other “Students”||Students are competitors||Learners are collaborators|
|Motivation||Obligation: Students are culturally obliged to work for the teacher & for compensation (below)||Responsibility: Learners are motivated by an understood and realized “value” in their work, especially when it is valuable to others.|
|Compensation||Institution defined grades and gateways to college (another institution) and a good job (another institution)||A sense of ongoing accomplishment that is not delivered but earned, and not symbolic but tangible and valuable — an investment.|
|Mode of Operation||Compliant, group-disciplined, objective-oriented, and trainable||Persevering, self-disciplined, group- and goal-oriented, resourceful, and learning in order to achieve rather than achieving learning.|
|Equipped||..with packaged knowledge and tools for recording packaged knowledge — prescribed and paced learning||..with tools for exploring a networked variety of content, experimenting with that content, and discovering, concluding, and constructing knowledge — invented learning|
|Assessment||Measuring what the student has learned.||Measuring what the learner can do with what has been learned.|
This chart was originally created by David Warlick in 2010.
Okay, that does a great job at breaking down the different aspects of why the words mean different things. I can honestly say that the “compensation” and the “Why?” are two reasons that I originally make the commitment to learning in my classroom.
Today, at the end of my 4th real year of teaching, I can say that t he relationships with educators and peers is another reason I have fully tried to commit to. The motivation and mode of operation are harder. Those are me creating an environment where those to can flourish. I try, but I don’t think I am always successful.
Assessment is still the killer. How do you create authentic assessments that will measure what the learner can do?
After 4 years, I can say I am beginning to be a decent teacher who is creating an environment where learning is the focus and studying is not. Let’s see what year 5 can bring my way!