Monday, October 20, 2014

Good Learning: The Investment of Time, Attention, Apt Strategy, and Choice

Time, attention, and apt strategy matter when it comes to successful learning.

If you choose to give a topic time, attention, and apt strategy, you're likely to learn.

With this in mind, how do we coach young students?

Learning is Within Your Grasp
First, we have to let our students know that learning is within their grasp. Learning is not something we do to students, instead learning is an action they choose to activate with time, attention, and apt strategy. For some learning, the choice is a natural, inviting decision. A child may love to draw, and choose to work on that skill for hours each day. That's the passion-based learning we see and tap into as we teach children. Yet that same child may find math computation a challenge which will require greater discipline, encouragement, support, and strategy.

What does that mean?

First, think about the aspects of life that you give the most time to. It's likely that those are your areas of competence, happiness, and success.  It's the same with learning, if you give a topic time, you're likely to succeed.

Last week a child asked me, "Why can he do it?" I replied, " ____ can do it because he spends hours of time on the topic--learning takes time. You do well in the areas that you give time to."

Next, there's a difference between passive time and active time. If you're actively focused on a topic, then you're likely to learn. If you're a passive bystander, there might be some learning, but not the kind of vigorous learning that leads to learning success.

Apt Strategy
Finally, apt strategy. I remember way back when a professor was trying to teach my colleagues and I about science through exploration. The lab was so open ended and my foundation so weak that I gained little from the experience. A better strategy would have been "limited exploration," the kind of exploration that begins with a question/connections and limited exploration--exploration that leads to known conclusions while also opening one's mind to new questions and connections.

With every learning area there will be strategies that are more effective and strategies that are less effective. This is the most important part of teaching today--teaching students how to discover, utilize, and develop apt strategies for learning.

Another example of this is a friend's goal of learning science processes. This friend was trying to learn the processes by reading about the processes in a book. While this can be successful for some, what's more successful is watching the processes in action via an effective video that includes audio, written, and visual information. The multimodal approach to learning really helps students gain understanding of processes. After watching and re-watching a video like this, a student may want to read about it to gain even more information or greater ability to use language to describe the process, but starting with a video that's well done is a good first step to learning material like this.

Today's world offers countless topics, strategies, information, and tools for learning, but time and attention remain limited.  How much time and attention you focus on a particular learning goal depends on multiple factors including your required daily tasks and commitments, interest in the topic, health, energy, and more. And this is where choice comes in.

We choose the kind of time, attention, and strategies we use to learn. As teachers of young children, it is our responsibility to teach children how and why to choose with questions such as:
  • What are you choosing to learn about? 
  • How are you planning to learn this?  
  • How much time will you give to this learning?  
  • How will you focus?  
  • How can I help?
Also as teachers of young children, it's our responsibility to work together to determine areas that children must learn to be successful, and as we teach these areas to children we can foster good choice with respect to time, attention, and apt strategy in the following ways:
  • Positive, inclusive daily and weekly learning routines.
  • Introduction and practice of multiple strategies.
  • Time to develop students' metacognition related to choice with regard to time, attention, and strategy choice/use.
  • Sharing the rationale for learning topics that are chosen for children.
  • Giving children time to choose and share their learning.
  • Coaching and encouragement for all student learning.
We are all capable of learning. For the most part, multiple strategies, tools, and content are available for this learning. What's limited are time and attention, hence our choices related to learning hold the key to learning success or lack of success. We can coach students so that they understand multiple learning strategies with strength, strategies that they can later use with time and attention to learn well. 

I will share these important points with my students today, and I will remind them that I am there to serve them and help them learn with as much success as possible. 

We also

Making students cognizant of the role time, attention, apt strategy, and choice gives students the reigns to learning