Teacher: Today we are wrapping up our thinking about learning by creating a visual representation of learning. What word or words come to mind when I say “Learning is….?” One thing that comes to my mind is the idea that learning is a permanent change. Let’s go around the room and hear your ideas.
In the academic class (or advanced level), I heard ideas like ‘reading’, ‘hard work’, ‘effort’, ‘on going’, ‘risk-taking’, ‘caring’, ‘overcoming obstacles’ and ‘exercising the brain’.
From the applied class (or general level) what I heard back was ‘nothing’, ‘boring’, and ‘pointless.’
What does this feedback tell me?
For two weeks both classes were taught the same content around growth mindset, learning, and goal setting. We watched videos about The Learning Brain, we read various articles explaining the difference between fixed and growth mindset, we completed a mindset survey, and we wrote short skits and role –played what growth and fixed mindset language might sound like. We discussed our ideas in small groups and as a whole class, we made notes, and we wrote blog posts.
What else do we need to know about these two classes?
The classes are the same size. Attendance in the academic class is 100% many days, while the applied class is never 100%. In fact, half of this class has already missed three to six days of the first 13 days of the semester. Generally, the academic students complete homework while the applied students do not. More academic students have completed the required blog posts (writing is thinking) in spite of the applied class having more class time to complete the posts. (For the record, there is one student in the applied class who has no technology available to him at home, and generally, the applied class is less interested in using Chromebooks and various web tools and platforms for their learning. But this is a topic for another post.)
These first two weeks have become an unintentional inquiry into the differences between applied and academic students. Some educators believe that the philosophy of ‘all students learning at the highest levels’ means that all students should be working for academic credits and that it is teacher bias and interpretation of the curriculum that closes doors to those students who are not in the academic stream.
Surely other factors also come into play. What about prior knowledge? What about gaps in the learning created by long-standing patterns of missed school (where they exist)? What about factors beyond the reach of the teacher? What about student choice?
This student feedback tells me that the applied students will need ongoing, direct support in learning to be learners; whereas, in the academic class, we can now weave our thinking about learning throughout the semester.
And it tells me that there is a difference between academic and applied students.
What do you think?