Blog Post: “Beyond Knowing Facts”

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I know this has been a huge conversation in our latest rounds of grade level meetings.  Over and over again I hear, “Students just don’t know their facts.”  Here is the link to a blog posting that addresses this issue as it exists for all teachers.

http://blogs.kqed.org/mindshift/2014/02/how-do-we-create-rich-learning-opportunities-for-all-students/

To give you a little overview, the article opens with this important quote:

“As educators across the country continue to examine the best ways of teaching and learning, a new lexicon is beginning to emerge that describes one particular approach —deeper learning. The phrase implies a rich learning experience for students that allows them to really dig into a subject and understand it in a way that requires more than just memorizing facts.”

So, what does this look like?  How do I get my students there when I feel like there is never enough time?  What defines deeper learning?

Deeper learning has been identified as having six competencies: mastering content, critical thinking, effective written and oral communication, collaboration, learning how to learn, and developing academic mindsets.  Developing an academic mindset is critical in two ways–one, it must be a growth mindset and it must be a positive one.  Students cannot think they are in a static place they can never get out of, thus surrendering to the notion “I just don’t know my facts” or “I’m just not good at math.”  Once they enter into this place, it’s hard to move them forward.  We need to ensure students instead are thinking through the lens of “I just don’t know my facts yet” or “I’m not great at this concept in Math, but I’m trying and know I can get better.”

The article suggests the following to help students develop this:

To develop a positive academic mindset, these are four key beliefs students must hold:

  • I can change my intelligence and abilities through effort
  • I can succeed
  • I belong in this learning community
  • This work has value and purpose for me

The final bullet is critical.  For the  students that do not know their facts, continuing to try to memorize something from flash cards (which hasn’t worked so far) has no value or purpose for them, because they know they’ve already tried it and failed.  This will then permeate a fixed mindset for these kids.  They will continue to think this is the only way to learn them and since they can’t do it, they just aren’t good at math or are incapable of learning their facts.  That is simply not true and we, as teachers, cannot allow that mindset in our classrooms.

I know I’ve offered several suggestions in approaching this work in a new way.  Some have received it well and some have not.  That is just fine.  However, I would encourage you to think about the six competencies for deeper learning and develop a way to help students learn this content in a way that matters to them and will foster the retention we so desperately want them to have, which will only occur through deeper learning.

If you do not follow this blog, I would encourage you to do so!  Very powerful in challenging and posing new thinking in education in ways that can be applied to our teaching.

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