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Why kids don’t learn in class

January 31, 2011
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I’ve blogged before about organizing Odyssey of the Mind at my daughter’s middle school.  With all the furore over education reform lately, I think I may have struck on one of the reasons that kids don’t learn in class.  Organizing them all to do anything takes so very long.

We are frantically trying to finalize our teams and kids are dropping out and adding in at a furious rate.  It is down to communication in many ways.  We’ve given them paper copies of hand-outs/forms, told them in person one-on-one, told them in groups, sent their parents numerous emails, had it announced at lunchtime.  We’ve had them repeat back what they heard.  We put it in newsletters and had power point presentations.

Still we’re explaining and explaining, and never sure if the kids are going to get to their actual project.

If teachers spent less time having to explain things a billion times, I’ll bet they would have way more opportunity to teach something.  Anything.

The whole classroom organizing principle feels like herding cats.  And, I’ve come to the realization that I’m not a very good cat-herder.

The second observation I have is how much time we’ll have to spend on the process of working together.  I’ve always thought of group work as part process, part content.  Process is: planning work, identifying roles, communicating ideas, developing shared language, norms/rules, giving feedback among other things are many life skills that are not explicitly taught, but inferred.

Way more time should be spent on this earlier in their lives.  Maybe if there was more emphasis on process at an earlier age, they’d be able to settle and be ready for content.  Watching the kids jockey for position in a team is painful and we’re hoping that introducing some facilitation processes will help (I’ll report back).

For now, cross your fingers for me that my cat herding skills improve…

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