Graduation a time to reflect on learning


Graduation a time to reflect on learning

By PAUL WENNINGER

With graduations approaching for seniors across the area, I begin thinking about the grand culmination of this thing we call high school or, for the K-12 schools like ours, school.

With graduations approaching for seniors across the area, I begin thinking about the grand culmination of this thing we call high school or, for the K-12 schools like ours, school.

When my youngest daughter graduated from college in 2008, I asked her how she viewed her education so far. Her response surprised me. (I had paid for college.) eThe best part of my education was all the people you and mom had around the house and the conversations I was allowed to be a part of.e She was a good student, in part, because she worked at it, had a lot of interaction with a diverse group of people, was encouraged to reflect, and did other things besides ejust going to school.e

Just for the fun of it sometime, Google elearning theory.e The thrust is that we talk about learning, but we do not fully understand how it works. At a very basic level, we connect eschoole with elearn.e And rightfully so, even though only some of what we eteache is learned (and only some of what is learned is actually taught).

OK, so, if learning equals schooling and knowledge is ewhate we learn, whates the problem? Why is everyone talking about school improvement? Iem actually pretty impressed that schools do as well as they do – given the distractions.

Let me take a crack at part of the problem. The invention of the printing press (1450 in Europe or 1040 in China) created the ability to assemble large amounts of data and disseminate it to a large number of people. Very quickly, what was printed in books became what was considered to be knowledge. We still teach what is in books. Yes, many of those facts are now available online, but in many cases, they are still facts. Those facts are what we learn. However, the world is now calling for more. In a world that depends on judgment, creativity, applied thinking and communication skills, knowing ejust the factse doesnet cut it anymore.

Schools measure factual knowledge because ites traditional, foundational and easy. It is more difficult to measure processing, or egrit,e or critical evaluation of facts. Facts grow into knowledge when they are aired out, talked about and shared.

On Thursday night, our seniors will present the results of their yearlong Capstone research projects. Many schools offer similar senior projects. Our students chose their topics in their junior year and have been working all year on these presentations. The topics are formed as questions, such as:

  • Is capital punishment ethically valid?
  • What unique qualities did New York City possess that set the stage for the birth of Broadway?
  • What are the legal and ethical concerns surrounding police surveillance technology, as well as the potential benefits?
  • What plays a bigger role in developing alcoholism: genetics or life experiences?

These students have collected facts, of course. But they have also put them to the test of interpretation, discussion and critical comparison. They must defend their conclusions in front of a crowd and support their defense with credible facts.

Our hope is that this process helps strengthen the studentes level of perseverance, discernment and critical thinking (vs. the old-school goals of memorization and regurgitation).

It all comes back to this for me. One good idea can generate another. The power of conversation with peers, family and mentors about facts, learning and knowledge is a big first step. Parents, encourage your students to air out their thoughts, to test them against the thoughts of others, and to eloquently defend them to those who will listen. Do not be afraid of topics outside your own expertise, knowledge or comfort zone. In my humble opinion, this is what learning is all about.

Paul Wenninger is Head of School at Currey Ingram Academy. eExtra Credite is provided each month by Currey Ingram Academy to help parents at all schools and at all stages of the parenting journey.

Currey Ingram Academy is a private K-12 day school for bright students with learning differences and unique learning styles. For more information, click here.e

Earlier Extra Credit columns:

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About The Author

Kelly Gilfillan is the owner-publisher of Home Page Media Group which has been publishing hyperlocal news since 2009.

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