Monday, November 19, 2018

The Learner Gets A Vote

One of the cool things about Twitter is that some interesting discussions take place among really smart people and the rest of us get to watch and, if we’re smart, learn. One such conversation took place over the past weekend with a number of really smart, very well informed (with, you know, actual research behind them) educators talking about CS pedagogy. 

The discussion was between a number of high powered university professors. As a lowly high school teacher I was hesitant to inject my thoughts. But I seem to be genetically incapable on keeping my thoughts to myself so ..

My comment was “A lot of times we forget the student and the environment they live in. The best thought out pedagogy in the world doesn't work if students reject it.”

It may be surprising but many students have strong ideas about what they should be learning. Their ideas of what is relevant are often different from that of their teachers. It’s easy for us as educators to say “we know what’s best” but students do get a vote.

If students think the tool is too hard, too easy, or just wrong it will be a struggle for them. Sure we as teachers can do a lot to make things go smoother. We can explain why it is good to use that particular tool for example. And we can make sure that projects and exercises are interesting to students and not just to us. What we can’t do is just assume that because we know the pedagogy is right that students will take that for granted and wholly embrace our methods. In fact, we have an obligation to do so. “Because I said so” almost never works as a motivation.

1 comment:

Garth said...

This is why it is so important to have an array of pedagogical approaches. I have had classes where I just throw things at them and get out of the way. Yet the same class with different students required more direction. To my programming geek students who have been programming on their own since the sixth grade a For loop is a no-brainer. For my first timers it is not. The approach to how to use it is totally different. I have no idea how I am going to teach until the first day of class when I get a chance to survey my students. For example this year I broke my Python class into two groups. I had 3 students with Python and programming experience and who program for fun. The other 5 had no programming and were not into the "programming for fun" mind set. Of course this ability to shift techniques comes with experience. A first time programming teacher is usually just hanging in there for dear life so one pedagogical thread is all they can handle. This is one of the problems with teaching from a canned curriculum when the teacher has no background in the field themselves. They have no ability to customize to suit the needs of students that do not fit the mold.