Monday, February 4, 2008

There IS a Difference Between Teaching, Learning and Curriculum!

Last Friday, I enjoyed the great privilege of participating virtually in a discussion of Daniel Pink's dubious book, "A Whole New Mind," with terrific high school students from Arapahoe High School in Colorado. Karl FIsch, Mrs. Smith and Mrs. Moritz earned my respect for inviting "outsiders" into the discussion and for their preparation. Based on the comments from their articulate students, they are doing something right.

(You may read the discussions I participated in here: Period 4 & Period 5)

In preparation for the book discussions, Karl Fisch's Fishbowl blog, Karl Fisch shares the following quote from another blog.

Twenty-first century education won’t be defined by any new technology. It won’t be defined by 1:1 laptop programs or tech-intensive projects. Twenty-first century education will, however, be defined by a fundamental shift in what we are teaching—a shift towards learner-centered education and creating creative thinkers.

This comment makes an all-too common mistake. It confuses teaching, learning and curriculum. They are not the same! "A fundamental shift in what we are teaching" refers to content, not how students learn or think. In fact, I do not believe that you can create creative thinkers since learning is what the learner does - not the result of teaching.

It seems peculiar to me that there is so little discussion of changing curricular content among those who spend their time blogging about school "change." Surely, you cannot keep adding content to the overcrowded curriculum. Not only does some curricular content need to be cut to make room, but some content is irrelevant while other "content" is counter-productive, unteachable or bad for students.

Kids at Arapahoe High School understood me when I suggested that "kids go to school to be taught." This is not the same as learning. Too many educators and policy makers seem to have a tenuous understanding of terms central to their mission.

Here is a primer...

What you teach is curricular content. How you teach is pedagogy. Learning is the process of growth undertaken by the learner. Knowledge is the consequence of experience.

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