Wednesday, September 14, 2022

reshaping teacher understanding

Adolf Diesterweg was a 19th century German educator and friend of Friedrich Frobel. I was reminded of him as I was perusing my recently published book Holtzwerken mit Kindern, translated from English and in which only a few words from all that German are decipherable by me. 

Diesterweg was responsible for a part of the theory Otto Salomon's Theory of Educational Sloyd in its recognition that learning must move from the known to the unknown, from the easy to more difficult, from the simple to the complex and from the concrete to the abstract. What he was describing would later become known as "scaffolding."

In building knowledge in this manner, it would be essential for the teacher to understand the needs and interests of the child. And of course, given the fact that children are individuals, each with differing needs and levels of understanding, we ought to be pointed in the right direction. Sadly, the needs and interests of the individual child are brushed aside in order to establish control of the "class." And today's classes are generally too large for teachers to discern or respond to the needs and interests of the individual child.

Classroom management has become the overriding objective in most schooling. But Otto Salomon dared to question the idea of "the class." You may also question the idea of the "class" through a thought experiment in which you reflect on your own learning experience.

Say that you are sitting in a college classroom. I'll use my business law classroom from college as an example. You are sitting at your desk. The teacher begins his lecture. If you've done your reading in preparation for the class, some of what the teacher is saying rings a bell. But a question comes up in your mind. You wonder whether or not to raise your hand, and as you deliberate, even for moments, you are no longer listening to what the teacher is attempting to impart. 

My business law teacher in college used a strategy to compel us to do our nightly readings before class. He would call  upon individuals in the class and would ask us to tell in our own words, the outcome of a case. So our attentions were placed in the prayer, "Please don't call on me!!!" It was extremely embarrassing to have to admit to not having read the assignment, the confession being made before the entire class.

The teacher cannot control the attention and learning of all those 25 to 30 individual minds in the classroom that are zooming in or more likely out of his own train of thought. Add to that the fact that some didn't read the homework assignment and had very little prior experience upon which to build an understanding of the lectures content or its relevance to their lives and learning. So with those factors, one can guess that less than 50% of the students are receiving value at any given time.

Today with my Kindergarten students we began building upon last week's lesson. We made color wheels. The project involved repetition of part of what we did in last week's lesson, but to build a fresh project. 

While making note holders was a project intended to build a relationship between school and wood shop and home. The color wheels invited the kids to use markers  to decorate a wheel that can spin and blend the tones into new colors. It added drilling to the project, and allowed each student to work at their own level, with some demonstrating a higher level of sophistication in design, but with each being very pleased with their results.

So what happens when teachers are brought to an understanding of the ineffectiveness of classroom learning? You begin to talk far less and help much more.

Make, fix and create... Assist others in learning likewise.

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