Thursday, July 11, 2013

More Learning Gap

There is another possible cause for the learning gap, which is that class time for younger students significantly exceeds their patience and attention span. Optimizing class time so that it feels more like play than work is critical to keeping students involved in learning activities.

It is very easy for teachers to lose students' attention, which has been more than adequately demonstrated by various studies. In classes that are geared for 'average' students, above and below average students are often stuck twiddling their thumbs while waiting for the next assignment or teacher assistance.

It may even be argued that these above and below average students become experts in twiddling their thumbs, so that at some point 'below average' students are constantly demanding and receiving teacher time and attention while 'above average' students get a pat on the back and bother their peers (until they get in trouble).

It is important to pair above average students with below average students, so that peers can help each other. However, this has to be done carefully, so that above average students are helping teach below average students how to do the work rather than doing it for them and simply giving the answers.

Many students find it is most expedient and requires minimal work to simply give the answers to their peers (as well as to receive answers from their peers), which is why this method predominates in most schools worldwide. This practice is never effective for any student in education and simply promotes an industrialized production of completed work completely ignorant of the effort and thinking necessary to achieve the completed work.

Unfortunately, since this practice is widespread and easy for students, it is nearly impossible to eradicate unless we stress the importance of the process rather than solely the completed, correct response. This is why grading of student work must be balanced between the process and the result.

Note that students automatically default to this behavior since it is, quite simply, the easiest way for them to complete the work and start playing, reading, or doing something else fun than actually doing the work. Conversely, schoolwork that is inherently fun is not usually rushed.