Before children enter school, motivation comes naturally. Infants want to learn to walk, to get where they want to go. They learn to talk to communicate their needs. Motivation seems like a natural instinct. As 5 year-olds enter our schools they are self-motivated to learn, and explore. Discover in itself seems to engage and keeps students moving down the learning trail. Then out of nowhere students seem to loose the spark. Not all of them, but enough to make a noticeable difference. Teachers have to put on a “show” to engage learners, often struggling to hold their complete attention. It seems these students start loosing the fire for “School” learning around 4th grade and it stays un-sparked till high school. Why is this? Could it be school structure?
There are many reasons students, loose the desire for prescribed learning during these “middle” years of school. I am going to focus on ONE key reason that educators should examine for change. SCHOOL STRUCTURE: Here are a few questions to ponder:
1. Is it appropriate to place 9-14 year olds to sit in desks, quietly for an 8 hour day, expected to learn, surrounded by 30 of their peers? Do adults learn well in this environment?
No, not appropriate. Students need to have freedom to move around, get comfortable, socialize and have private spaces. Schools should look more like coffee shops or book stores, filled with comfortable seating and meeting places. Teachers should move freely among the students asking questions, checking in, giving feedback, while allowing students to learn at their on pace. Look at the office environments of Google and Mircosoft of inspiration here.
2. Would you work hard to learn, knowing you will move on to the next topic/level after a period of time?
After a couple of years in school, student realize that the they move on to the next level with or without effort. Grades might suffer but they are just LETTERS. Do any of us really like to work hard? (Well we do when we find passion) Students are still exploring for their passions, hard work always meets resistance at first. Schools need to foster passions, not force work towards the unknown. Students are turning off on subjects because they are hard before passion has a chance to set in. A current student told me he was bad at science. His passion was working as an audio technician at a teen night club. It took awhile but now he is excited to learn about sound and waves in science class. Schools structures make it too easy for student to sit back and arrive at the next level instead of earning it.
3. Should kids be told what is important to learn? or discover what is important to their lives?
The curriculum in schools is to defined. Requiring specific units of study, without giving students time to explore a topic based on their own interests. In my science curriculum we spend so much time studying the plant kingdom, heredity and genetics during our biology unit. Students always ask great questions about Animals. While I do answer their questions we don’t have time to explore the animal kingdom as much as students desire. Teachers are told to teach to students learning styles, isn’t their learning desires apart of their style? Curriculum needs to be more open ended. What students learn in school isn’t really important it is HOW they learn that is. Once a student learns how to learn anything will be accomplished.