At some point in time, there will be a shift away from the idea of developing content knowledge and towards teaching ways to scaffold concepts. Let’s get there already! The thing that I find very curious is the question of why creative, successful adults understand that their own work depends on conceptual layering, but they don’t see this as a need for their children.
There is a significant disconnect between what we expect of our own work and learning and what we expect from children’s. Here is an example: Let’s say that you are assigned to write an advertising campaign. You are given a deadline and then put to work. Imagine that instead of being able to work at this assignment in your own mode, with your creative prompts, on your best working schedule, you were rather asked to spend most of the day in an uncomfortable desk with a lot of other people in the room learning about the history of the company for which you were designing the advertisement. At the end of this so-called learning, you are not released to finally go do your work. Instead, you are given a three part quiz–some of it is multiple choice and your supervisor has intentionally added a few trick questions just to see if you are paying attention–(because tricking people into learning is effective… not). This might make you go crazy. If you had to do this sort of thing day after day instead of getting to work on creating the things you were hired to create, well, you might even quit because you would be wasting your time and your talent. In other words, you might drop out.
Why do we think teenagers are so different than us in their need to be useful? They want to DO things. I can’t imagine why so many people are skeptical about Project Based Learning. Sometimes when I talk to people about this being the real way to approach learning, I get this cautionary look—raised eyebrows, been-there-done-that kind of smirk, and the skeptic says,”But there are so many bad projects, surely you can’t let the entire system rest on this happenstance idea.”
This drives me mad. It is like someone experiencing bad food at a restaurant and saying we should all stop eating. It is not experience alone that matters. It is not simply the philosophy of John Dewey–the important thing for us to now grasp is that doing should no longer be the question. The new question should be, “What should children be doing that will both challenge and engage them to serve the ends of their own futures?”–not our idea of what their lives should look like. As far as kids and learning go, I often think the adults are standing in their way.