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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

the struggle is where the learning happens

the struggle is where the learning happens; it's not the thing we try to avoid, or a sign we're doing it bad.

i've been thinking about that idea ever since my Tulane professor brought it up last semester. the above quote, i believe, calls on both teachers and students to re-frame how we understand "errors" and "mistakes." if we allow ourselves to truly engage in activities that are challenging, then we are going to struggle. that's a fact. but it's a good fact because if our engagement is authentic, then we'll also be developing the skills to meet those challenges. and that's precisely what i love about the above quote. without explicitly stating it, the message is clear: as challenges increase, so does the skill level required; thus, persistent trial-and-error is not only encouraged, it's required.

simply put, if we are going to get from where we are (X) to where we want to be (Y), error must be one of the main sources of our learning. and i think most people (on some hidden, locked-away level) already know this. so i say, let's finally sing what we all know to be true: errors are a key indicator of learning—what else can offer such a rich source of material from which to study, from which to meaningfully reflect? without error, what does the word "better" even mean?


Jabiz said...

Great post about the nature of learning. The part I think we all struggle with is this- How do we assess, evaluate and report(grade)mistakes, failure: "errors are a key indicator of learning"

The trouble is that we tell students it's okay to take risks, error, and learn, but then we evaluate and judge everything they do. We see these errors and steps toward learning as percentage points or grades or worse in terms of failing and below average.

Sure carefully worded rubrics are more objective...emerging feels better than below average, but most learners are still caught up in the net of evaluation.

To truly make the shift, we must move away from this model of grade based learning.

Unfortunately, higher ed leaders the charge and they seem not to be in any hurry to change. Grade always trump learning. That is the problem.

billieball said...

jabiz: i'm only at the very very beginning of my evolution in (what i've just now decided to call "grading genre"), so i'll only add this: i think the biggest weapon why have against grades-preventing-authentic-learning is our AWARENESS that it does. we'll never get rid of grades (nor would we precipitously want to, or in the absolute). what we can do, however, is elevate: we can elevate our awareness how to encourage our classrooms to be places of risk over error, volition over mistakes, experimentation over stasis, and so on. lot harder than it sounds, and yet its the teacherly task before us.

TXO said...

The depth of your struggle will determine the height of your success.

Interesting post Ari! Too many thoughts swirling around, tough to type it all out would be best to discuss in person. It's interesting what systems other countries have in place, which is where alternative schools come in as well like Montessori or Waldorf.

Just listened to a tape of Zig Ziglar who was on about the Japanese and how they learn and how much more sense it makes. Every day they spend one hour learning about respect and things which make the crucial difference in life and in being successful. Other nations can learn a great deal from them he said. It'd be good if they'd also start to implement it.

As always one person has to make a start and actually: start. Only then can things change.