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What Students Do

Get the conversation started with this month's quote from Neil Postman in Teaching as a Subversive Activity:

"In order to understand what kind of behaviors classrooms promote, one must become accustomed to observing what, in fact, students actually do in them. What students do in a classroom is what they learn (as Dewey would say), and what they learn to do is the classroom's message (as McLuhan would say). Now, what is it that students do in the classroom? Well, mostly they sit and listen to the teacher. Mostly, they are required to believe in authorities, or at least pretend to such belief when they take tests. Mostly they are required to remember. They are almost never required to make observations, formulate definitions, or perform any intellectual operations that go beyond repeating what someone else says is true. They are rarely encouraged to ask substantive questions, although they are permitted to ask about administrative and technical details. (How long should the paper be? Does spelling count? When is the assignment due?) It is practically unheard of for students to play any role in determining what problems are worth studying or what procedures of inquiry ought to be used. Examine the types of questions teachers ask in classrooms, and you will find that most of them are what might technically be called"convergent questions," but what might more simply be called "Guess what I am thinking" questions."

*Do you agree? Do you think students are not encouraged enough to ask substantive questions in the classroom? What shifts are you making in your own classroom? What are the challenges?

Watch the AALF 21 Steps to 21st Century Learning video entitled Explore Contemporary Learning. How does the learning experience for the students in the video compare to the experiences Postman describes?

We'd love to hear what you think! Join the conversation and let us know!
April 15th, 2014 @ 12:50PM


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