We have always been honest teachers, or at least so we say. We have struggled to learn about new techniques to improve our teaching skills, new methods to achieve our goals, new tools to make our lessons more engaging… but we always forgot something, something that has always been there and we did not have eyes to see.
We all knew there were students who had less talent for languages, or those who were really “gifted”. We tried to keep the balance by asking those more skilled to help the others in their learning process (or was it help “us”?), and that made us feel good. We gave more assistance to those who needed it, some more extra worksheets, some more explanations at the end of the class… but something was not right… what was it? Why ordinary children did not succeed at all in their learning English… or were we so bad that we cold not succeed in our job?
It seems that things are getting clear… we must definitely assume that not every child learns in the same way… their intelligences differ. Of course, some will be more talented that others, but that does not account for complete failure. The important breakthrough that meant discovering and assuming different ways of learning has also meant that teachers must change the way to treat “diversity”. This so called “diversity” should be now based on seeing and understanding how our students learn, have a clear picture of their learning profiles, and adapt our teaching as much as possible… and that sounds extremely difficult… insurmountable?
Not really, indeed. If we stick to old methodologies, to children in rows listening to a master class where teachers teach how to build passive forms and then ask students to fill in the gaps and transform sentences, then it will be really insurmountable. But if we look around and see the scores of possibilities we have to cover the different needs of our students, there’s light at the end of the tunnel!
PBL and technologies create a blend of tools, resources and techniques that can turn our lessons into pools of knowledge research, acquisition, analysis and transfer. It’s about time we turn to Bloom’s taxonomy and get a clear picture of the kind of tasks and projects our students are doing. This way it will be easier to detect what we can offer to every single learner. Distributing different tasks, using different tools and resources and assigning different roles will possibly create a scenario where many more students will find a proper learning path, probably a path full of challenging goals and attainable objectives… suitable for everyone.
Very good post as always, Ricard. It’s true that teachers need to be more aware of the different learning styles they deal with everyday. I think I have always paid attention to that particularly when I started noticing how my children were learning, how different they were not only their styles, but also their rhythms. It’s something I have to deal with everyday and it helps me understand my students better. Amazing how twins can be so different: they’re both good students, but one of them often gets better marks as he fits into the traditional style of teaching. The other one is probably brighter, but he hates memorizing and in-depth writing. I wish teachers would understand that!
Your weekly post is thought provoking as usual! Having read your reflections I came up with some questions:
1) What do you think teachers should concentrate on more – planning activities and using different tools (including technology) to address each learning style during the class or teach students to know their strengths and rely on them while working or shall these two be linked somehow to create such environment where students are completely involved?
2) Should only teachers adapt or students will do that as well and this way they can learn to survive and develop necessary life skills?
3) Do you think that “suitable for everyone” is possible in real world?
As for question 1, I think the answer lies in a blended approach where both, teachers try to enrich their professional skills, and students learn about their weaknesses and strength… that makes individualized focus get easier.
It is clear to me that teachers must learn about the change, but also students need to be aware of that change and reshape their efforts and commitment.
I guess you don’t think suitability for everyone is possible… probably you would be right… finding suitability for every one looks so difficult it will always be a common goal… but attainable? I don’t think so!
I think that probably \”suitability for everyone\” is what we should always have in our mind while planning, organizing, conducting but it is hardly attainable. Striving for it makes us one-step closer to the aim. While reflecting on the issue I always referred to Nizara\’s 150 students, remembered some of my own 25 student-classes. At the class it looks almost like a dream to get to everybody. Though, we can teach students to cope independently. “Students who have learned how and when to use learning strategies become more self-reliant and better able to learn independently.” (Sailing the 5 Cs with Learning Strategies http://www.nclrc.org/sailing/)