Saturday, July 14, 2012

The Missing Piece: The Learner


For over a decade, the conversations have been about leaving no child behind with teachers analyzing data to develop better instructional strategies. This resulted in teachers teaching to the test which actually may have only slightly increased test scores yet decreased motivation and engagement.
What is the missing piece in these conversations?
The Learner

Learners today are very different than learners from five years ago. First graders have already been exposed to many multi-sensory learning experiences for most of their lives. They develop their language by listening, speaking and being read to. Many of these young learners have already had access to digital books, educational programs on television, and interactive apps. Learning starts way before they enter school. Just watch a toddler use an iPad. They know how to open an app, view and enlarge images, and use a slingshot in Angry Birds. They figured it out by themselves. It is part of their digital DNA. They are even teaching their parents how to use mobile devices. Teachers no longer have to be the content and technology experts. With technology, learners can find what they need to learn and know at anytime from anywhere. Teachers help learners develop critical-thinking and problem-solving skills.

The only way to reach these new types of learners is to transform teaching and learning to a learner-centered environment. Teaching changes. Roles change. Learners take more ownership of their learning. Teachers are the guides and facilitators of learning. This is a huge culture shift.

For learners to own and drive their learning, teachers and learners need to know how the learners learn best. This means understanding how learners prefer to...
  • access content and information.
  • engage with the information.
  • express what they know and understand.

Teachers and learners become partners in lesson design. Learners take on more responsibility for their learning when they have a voice and choice in how they learn. Teachers step back and advocate for each learner. Learners are more motivated to learn. Learners are teaching each other. Teachers are learning from the learners.   

The learner will be part of the daily conversations from now on:
no longer The Missing Piece.

Questions to consider when moving to a learner-centered environment:

Who are the learners today?
How do learners learn best?
How do we meet the needs of all learners in the classroom every day?  
What is the new role of the teacher?
How is the role of the learner changing?
Why is there a culture shift with these new roles?
How can teachers and learners be partners in lesson design?
How will teachers prepare to be the guide and partner in learning?
How will learners express their understanding of what they know?  
What learning environment will be created for these learners?