Friday, June 18, 2010

What do you do when....

The most frustrating thing for me as a teacher is to run into a student who is unmotivated. This is partially related to the fact that I've realized the limits of what a teacher can actually accomplish. A lot of my time as a teacher is spent instructing - transferring information in a theoretical format via words, examples, and analogies to my students. Once I've done that, it seems that students have two ways to handle that information.

1. They keep it in its theoretical form; phrases, words, and facts to be memorized and repeated later (on some supposed test)

2. They apply it. They allow the knowledge to mix with the other experiences they have had and the knowledge they have acquired. They allow it to inform their perspective on the other situations they encounter. They let it become integrated into their knowledge base.

It seems to me that the people who fall into the second group, who let learning constantly shape their outlook and their understanding (whether it stays within in the category of singing or music history, or whether it affects their other classes or even interactions with peers), are the people who have more fulfilling lives and who actually end up doing better in class.

More importantly, they are much more fun to teach, because they love every little piece of information they get!

So, can you help someone convert from a number one learner to a number two learner? How do you do it?


  1. Oh, you are a closet epistemologist! I love these musings. And oh how I wish I had an answer. I'll keep pondering and let you know what I come up with!

  2. This is a very interesting read. I'd definitely be interested in learning more about converting from a #1 learner to a 2. I would think that internal motivation would play a large role in this.

  3. I like this post. In answer to your question, I think first of all the student is always in charge of what they learn. And I think in this case awareness, as in many other cases, has to be the first step. As I was reading this post, Bryson, I actually had this mental image of you standing in front of a class, having this very discussion with them. At the end of which, I suppose, a good teacher invites the student to ponder on--1. which type of learner they are, 2. if they ought to change, 3. what would they do, think, say differently, how would they behave differently if they did change. Beyond that, maybe at the end of every class/lesson you have a short discussion about how the new information applies to _____... x. Whatever they want to apply it to.

    Oh, also modelling. Show them how you apply the information/skill in your own life.

    Thanks for making me think about this very relevant issue...