In my two previous posts on this topic (see below), I've argued that:
Kids are novices who depend on direct, structured instruction in basic skills and fact-rich core knowledge before they're ready to start taking charge. Absent such direct instruction, there will, indeed, be "very little learning by the students." 59% of students not achieving a basic level on a standardized science test isn't proof that they don't understand the phases of the moon; it does, however, suggest that, on average, students are receiving a very low level of direct instruction of basic scientific knowledge.And that:
Perhaps it's simply too difficult for people to believe that the reason why kids today can't locate Iraq or the former Iron Curtain or the relative positions of the sun, earth, and moon when the latter is full is that no one has ever even attempted to teach them these things.I've had some great comments in response, and a few have raised some objections. One is the fact that some children learn things on their own. As HappyElfMom writes:
Franklin was a school dropout, so I can't see him freaking out about some state test scores. He might, however, freak out that there is a state test to score.
I'm not sure that it really matters if a child thinks that Iraq is in Central America. I guess having a severely disabled child changes it for me, but I read that and thought it was nice that the children understand the concept of country and continent. If that's a given, one can simply point to the map and say, "It's not over here; it's HERE" and maybe show a few pictures of the Babylonians, ancient civilizations, early writing, etc.
Any kid with a calendar and a window can start to learn about moon phases WITHOUT much adult input!
Do you know what I think is a travesty? Kids being required to just attend school and SIT rather than construct their own education plans within certain parameters.As Anonymous points out, however:
In a classroom setting, learning is done as a group (with choices about what to research for special projects as the final part of a unit). This is unavoidable, because young children need instruction and guidance as they learn, even in the most creative classroom. And some types of knowledge build on other types; the order does matter.
I've personally given direct instruction, together with guided practice (I show, you watch, you do I watch), and yet, the next semester, you'd never be able to tell that they'd ever seen it before at all. I also know that it's quite possible to explain something quite clearly to the whole class while my daughter is there, and she won't remember any of it (the ADHD meds help).
How much is that they lack basic reading/writing/math skills and so are unable to demonstrate their knowledge on a test?
The people who are ultimately responsible for the upbringing of a child are the parents. In far too many cases, they are failing to do so.
A big fault with today's curriculum designers/teachers, in my opinion, is that they seem to assume that merely exposing children to a topic through access to written or digital materials will make them retain the material. Not so; most of the time, children (and adults) need to process the material by practicing with it. That is, in essence, what note-taking is; it's what problem sets are; it's what writing book reports is; it's what writing up a lab is.And as Anonymous (the same Anonymous?) points out:
Also: children vary in the degree to which their minds are "sticky." For some kids, for some topics, they retain a lot just by being exposed to a glancing explanation, whether oral, visual, or electronic (by this comment, I'm agreeing both with Katherine and with Lsquared). The same kid, on a different day, or the kid next to the first kid, will need a much more extended engagement with the material in order for it to "stick."