Saturday, December 31, 2011

Re-Conditioning Learners

I was hoping to share this thought earlier but failed to do so. The title of this post comes from a conversation I had with an English teacher during the final week of class before winter recess.  I was informally checking in and stopped by a classroom where an English teacher was enjoying a prep period.  During the course of the conversation, I asked what her class would look like after break.  The teacher responded by saying that she needed to alter the classroom structure with the hope of re-conditioning learning.  I was struck by this response and asked for the teacher to explain what was meant by the term re-condition.

This particular English teacher expressed a desire to have her students become more self-reliant.  She observed that far to often students rely on the teacher to solve problems.  Students are quick to seek an "answer" from her as opposed to figuring out solutions on their own or in conjunction with peers.  It was noted that this was pronounced in her honors English classes, where students sought a quick remedy.  This English teacher was struck by the extent to which students turned to the teacher not so much for help, but rather an answer.  Additionally, she was concerned by either the unwillingness or diminished capacity for students to construct a problem-solving process. 

It was the hope after the break to alter the structure to where students had to actively develop a process through which complex problems could be addressed. She saw herself stepping back and providing space for students to work through complex tasks.  She was going to refrain from offering answers and or solutions.  Her efforts would be focused on mentoring students through what potentially could be a frustrating process of developing the capacity to solve problems independent of the teacher.   The term re-conditioning was used to capture both her observations and future intentions.  I agree with her observations that learners are quick to turn to a teacher for an answer.  I am not sure if it is a matter of effort, but instead, a system that fails to foster problem-solving skills.  There is a need for to re-condition learners into imaginative and industrious problem-solvers. 

It will be interesting to see how this process plays out and in particular whether students realize the importance of developing the capacity to be capable problem-solvers.  I asked this English teacher to archive her reflections and encourage students to do the same.  Hopefully, somewhere in the future both the teacher and students would be willing to publicly share their reflections and comment on this idea of re-conditioning learning.