Thursday, June 13, 2019

Teaching Students to Yearn to Learn

Summer time is time for me to do a lot of thinking about my teaching practice. I've been doing a lot of reading and a couple of quotes have helped me in my thinking. Two of them are about leadership and I see them as having applicability in education. A good teacher is a leader - trying to lead students to learn. The first quote is about using coercion.

“You do not lead by hitting people over the head — that’s assault, not leadership.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower

Grades are, or can be, a bludgeon. Sometimes teachers use grades as a way to force students to do work. I hate doing that. It feels like a metaphoric "hitting over the head." It may get students to do some work or at least to hand in something but it seldom really leads to real learning. That leads to the second quote I have been pondering.

“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work, and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.”
― Antoine de Saint-ExupĂ©ry

Leadership is largely about teaching students to yearn to learn. A good teacher leader develops internal motivation in their students so that they want to develop the knowledge and tools one is trying to teach.

One of the things I have observed is that students who have a say in the projects they take on are much more motivated to learn the things they need to know to complete them. Getting students to want to learn is much more effective than trying to force them to learn so that they can get good grades.


Garth said...

Other than the fact I would say at least 50% of my students have absolutely no desire to put their brain in gear I would agree. Sometimes they need a swift kick in the rear to get started. For some odd reason many of them think high dollar jobs and high quality universities are going to come looking for them just because the kid wants them to. Surprise! It does not work that way but the kids do not seem to want to listen. Oh well, McDonald's is always hiring.

Robin Andrews said...

"Teaching students against their will" is basically an oxymoron, since learning is an active process that requires voluntary engagement. There is only so much a teacher can do to motivate their students. It the students basically don't want to be there, it makes sense to let them leave, IMO, for the benefit of all concerned.