College faculty, Domestic, Elementary / Primary / Junior, Public education, Required, STEM / Science, Technology, Education, Math - Written by on Wednesday, August 17, 2011 7:35 - 0 Comments

Teachers: Why Your Resignation Might be the Best Move for Your Students

photo: flickr user michael.heiss

(School on Saturday? Wheee!)

by Elbert Chu


Pop Quiz!

What would make a 6th grader want to turn up for school on a Saturday?
a) iPads
b) Google+
c) Edmodo
d) Learning

In a Chicago suburb Naperville classroom, a teacher is learning by letting his students lead. Sixth grade teacher Josh Stumpenhorst might soon find students demanding a six day school week. Stumpenhorst, a Language Arts and Social Science teacher, provides technology and education infrastructure, but lets student take the steering wheel.

Innovation Day is one example of Stumpenhorst’s unconventional pedagogy. Susan Dibble of Chicago’s Daily Herald reports:

Borrowing the concept from another teacher, Stumpenhorst said the whole day was devoted to letting each student pursue a self-chosen project. Students did everything from shooting videos to writing a comedy monologue to building a replica of the Willis Tower.

“We had kids composing music. We had kids doing choreography. We had just amazing learning going on,” he said. “We had more positive feedback from parents and kids than from literally any other thing we’d ever done.”

Dan Pink, New York Times best selling author about workplace motivation points out the most telling and arguably rewarding response a student could give a student. In this case Stumpenhorst wrote on his blog after Innovation Day:

As the students were walking out at the end of the day one student stopped me and asked, ”Can we do this again tomorrow”?

I responded with, “Well, I would love to, but tomorrow is Saturday,” in a half-joking manner.

This student looked me dead in the eyes and replied, “I would come back tomorrow to do this again.”

Of course, every day can’t be Innovation Day right? At some point kids need to sit down while the teacher stands in front and scratches stuff on the chalkboard, right? Well, Stumpenhorst, takes this student-led learning thing to a whole other level…daily, it seems.

photo: Daniel White / DailyHerald.comHe wrote a “resignation letter” : “I am done teaching my students. I will no longer give pencil and paper tests. I refuse to tell my students what projects to do. It has become increasingly clear to me that the less I teach, the more my students are actually learning. Clearly that means I should give up teaching…” Should the International Society of Technology in Education, who recognized him as an emerging leader, reconsider?

Stumpenhorst said he’d still be in the classroom as a “guide.” His student-directed learning manifesto of sorts:

As I am sitting at my desk I am no longer teaching but guiding. I have carefully constructed learning questions and activities for each student. The students are working collaboratively with each other on differentiated learning activities and producing a variety of evidence. They don’t look to me to tell them how to show they are learning but choose how to learn and how best to show me they are learning…Soon I will become invisible and the students will take complete control over their learning. My life as a teacher will cease to exist and a whole new one will replace it.

A poetic thought, but we wonder how Stumpenhorst’s kids perform on standardized tests, or when they’re forced to revert to teacher-led study by a curmudgeon 7th grade teacher?

Of course, this is not a case against technology. Stumpenhorst sees himself as a resource provider. Innovation Day included student produced a documentary and a “video highlight reel.” Students need cameras and computer for that. Therefore, in that role as infrastructure manager, he wrote a grant for 15 laptops in his classroom. Note to Stumpenhorst: check out Joli OS.

Stumpenhorst says doing student-directed learning is more work, not less, primarily because there is a lot of modelling early on for students.

One key to the whole equation: A supportive administration. These classes tend to be more unruly and probably draw the jealous attention of bored peers in other rooms.


via Daily Herald


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