In higher education, a teacher of engineering was suprised to discover that his students in an A-List university did not like to engage in conversation. When he asked a question during class, no one raised a hand. When he gave them an exam, he discovered that they performed less well than his classes at a community college! He told this to his elite students. Perhaps many of them, who are used to being smart and know how to Google answers, had thought they could wing it. This professor had told his students in both venues that if they did the assigned work, they would learn the course material. The grades on the first exam for more than half the class of the A-listers was a rude awakening. These students are not used to doing poorly. Interestingly, the students who sat in the front row did significantly better on the test than those at the back of the room. Hmmmmmm. The professor pointed this out and the next time he entered the class the students were fighting over seats.
Speaking of chaos in the classroom, a high-school science teacher friend in an upscale school district has found her students disrespectful, entitled, and sometimes, just plain nasty. She teaches a lab course so there is less formal control than the old-fashioned sit-in-your-seat, shut-up-and-listen, reading-and-recitation (aka known as work-sheets) class format. After spoon-feeding a project with a power-point and dividing the group into working partners, she told them to proceed by reading the instructions for the state required lab. She would approve their work as they made progress through the procedure. But they couldn't seem to comprehend the directions and all they cared about was getting the check mark for completing each segment so they had the record of doing the work without actually doing the work. She feels frustrated because she cannot establish a rapport with her students and was horrified that they could not follow the simple directions that they had to read.
The other day, a colleague in Kansas City told me that parents stormed a school board meeting demanding that they remove iPads from the classrooms. I found the link to the story but only the headline. Apprently, when at home, their children never put down their devices, constantly chatting with friends (which is NOT writing) and playing video games. Some parents in Silicon valley who work for the tech giants are sending their kids to a Waldorf school that eschews technology. Read the piece to discover what that's all about.
Apparently, this change in student behavior has been going on for a long time. Back in 2009, Christy Price, a psychology professor at Dalton State College in Georgia studied the gap between students expectations for success and their willingness to work for it. She came up with "The Five R's for Engaging Millenial Students," published in 2011. Lotsaluck implementing them.
Her conclusion is that now teachers have to be perceived as their students' "cheerleaders." [My terminology.] Since the beginning of time we've known that motivation is the key to learning. We once believed that showing up at school was enough to do the job. No more. The authority of a teacher is no longer a given. The pleasing of parents is grades. They're seen as vital to the check list for parental aspirations for their kids. Failure and stumbling blocks are not seen as stepping-stones to responsibility, agency, and maturity. Parents have become fixers; some are even ready with lawsuits that intimidate school administrators from backing their teachers. And I'm talking here about the institutions that have traditionally generated good students!!! Think about what's happening in underserved schools. The most effective way to catch up on lost opportunities to learn in school is........ (drum roll): TUTORING!!!! One-on-one interactions between human beings. My sister is a math tutor and she's really busy these days. Socrates lives on.
Technology, standardized testing, data-driven instruction are all dehumanizing education. Everyone is looking for "scalablilty," the mass production of learning. The only thing worth scaling in education is good books, art, music, media. We must stop trying to "scale-up" good teaching because it is not scaleable. There are best practices and there are good teachers who come with diversity of personality, culture, passions, all of which are stifled in the classroom.
There is joy and motivation to be discovered in both the teaching and learning processes. Such discoveries can happen anywhere, not just in classrooms where it now happens less and less.
Once found, it is the secret sauce to a well-lived life.