So I've been thinking a lot about change lately. Mostly thinking about what I can change to become a more effective teacher. I know I talked about it in my last post, but I've had some time to think about things and I have a plan.
Yesterday I was grading some short essays that my students had written as a part of their test. I kept feeling disappointed that these "good students" were writing crap for essays. They some of them were honestly horrible. I couldn't believe it. I thought they were smart, I thought I had taught them well. I started thinking about all the stuff I've heard about our education system being broken. It's pretty common now days, most people feel that our public schools are not educating students enough. I'm fed up with it. Not that I don't think its true. I actually would tend to agree with those who say we are not doing a good enough job at educating students. But I'm sick of hearing about it all the time and nothing being done to change it. I look at the way I teach, and it's essentially the same way my teachers taught me which is exactly how college programs teach you how to teach. Not that they were bad teachers, but shouldn't we try to improve our practice. If medicine never improved we would still be using leaches to treat blood diseases. If technology never improved we would still be using dial-up rather than high-speed Internet. I think education needs to evolve and improve as well.
So I've come up with some basic methods to help my students learn better. My idea is that most of the state standards and objectives can be broken down into two types of learning objectives. Factual knowledge and Conceptual knowledge. Factual knowledge is basically memorizing facts: the capital of Peru is Lima, 12 x12 is 144, the bone in our upper arm is called the humerus. This type of knowledge is pretty easy for students to learn. This is the stuff that those "good students" excel at. They can memorize facts and cram for tests. But do they actually learn the concepts? I don't think they do most of the time. Not that factually knowledge isn't important. You need a basis of factual knowledge before you can really understand the conceptual knowledge behind it. But conceptual knowledge is a much deeper kind of learning. Conceptual knowledge is when you understand how things work, or why things happen a certain way. Sometimes it is very difficult for students to think this way. This is what I want to focus on teaching them. Stressing the important of conceptual knowledge and then measuring their learning (grades) based on how well they understand the concept.
I'm sure you've all seen a 4.0 student who can't tell you anything about what they've learned besides just spit out facts that they have memorized, but they don't understand the principle behind those facts.
I'm still in the early stages of figuring out how to do this. I'm sure it will take some time and a lot of effort. But I really hope I can make a difference.