Doing school vs (real) learning…

I love chatting with my colleague about approaches to pedagogy and how to encourage teachers to reflect and grow. This week’s conversation gets us thinking about a shift in focus required for (some) beginning teachers… and some who’re not beginning.

We attempt to define it. Is it a shift in focus from:

  • Teaching to learning?
  • Teacher centred to student centred?
  • Work to learning?
  • Short term to long terms goals?
  • Content to process?
  • All of the above?

How often do you say these sorts of things in your classroom?

  • This is how you need to do the task.
  • Don’t publish till you show me what you have written.
  • Your answer is ok but it’s not the one I’m looking for. (not necessarily in those words)
  • This is how you can improve your work.
  • Don’t move to the next step till I say so.
  • Stop (in the middle of what you’re doing/thinking/learning) and listen to my instructions.
  • I want you to…

Are you depriving your students of opportunities to make decisions and reflect on them, learn from mistakes, become independent learners, think for themselves and… really LEARN?

What are the effects when teachers say things like this? (Observed in class visits this week)

  • What do you think is the best way to go about this? Why do you think so?
  • Create your own experiment, if you think it will be more effective.
  • How would you teach this to students of any age of your choice?
  • It doesn’t matter what I think, what do you think?
  • How and why would you go about developing new vocabulary? (second language)
  • You know more about this than me, what do you suggest?
  • What did you learn about yourself as a learner?

Consider your practice….

Are you providing opportunities for meaningful learning?

Or are you and your students ‘doing school’?

Lauri, Year 3
“Can you go and find some good microscopes for around $100? You know more about these things than me…”
Year 6 PYP exhibition information night
Sharing with parents what we’ve been learning and what we’re interested in exploring.
Year 4 - Adventure Time
Creating emotion balls as part of an ‘Adventure Time‘ exploration of mindfulness
Year 4 Adventure Time
Getting feedback from peers before pitching to the class, rather than just asking the teacher

20 thoughts on “Doing school vs (real) learning…

  1. Great post and reflection. Connecting learning to the world makes it real for all of us doesn’t it? Sharing one’s learning is great learning too, so sometimes its just creating the oppurtunities for parents to come in to a student showcase and see what their children have been up to.


  2. Thank you for sharing. I give my students choice on so many different levels. And they don’t like it. Students are conditioned to play school. Many times my “A” students have the hardest time. They will ask me to tell them what to do so that they can get it done. One of my favorite lines is, “I don’t know. What do you think?” But it is a challenge, it is messy, and it takes more time to allow students to learn. Thank you, again for sharing.


    1. Thanks for the comment. It’s our responsibility to work against that conditioning! The more teachers and students understand that school can be about learning, not just about schooling, the easier the work will become.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Ed: STILL FOLLOWING! I enjoy reading your post.
    This post seems to be advocating MORE student-centered learning in classrooms and in Pre-service conferences. I might caution that it appropriate to do so (i.e. to encourage independent thinking and student-centered learning. However, teacher-centered instructional paradigms are also extremely important. In my book the Dichotomy of Instructional Design, I advocate for both approaches to teaching AND learning. Student-centered when the curriculum is of a non-technical nature AND Teacher-centered when technical knowledge and skills are to be mastered (i.e. Competency-based vs. Outcome-based) curriculum. Read more about my conceptual framework @
    Best wishes, Ken


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