Star-Struck: The New Vs. The Old

Star-Struck: The New Vs. The Old

I heard a strange comment from a student the other day. A group of students was talking about their classes, and one student started to vent about how “teachers just don’t teach us anymore.” He continued his rant by stating: “I’m tired of teachers expecting us to teach ourselves.” Others in his group started to respond with comments such as “My teachers tell me to make my own meaning, but then I am tested on their meaning.”

I couldn’t help but eavesdrop, and I couldn’t stop myself from asking the student what exactly he meant. His response was interesting and insightful. He explained that because teachers are “flipping” their classrooms and moving to a more student-centered style, students are left to guess what the teacher feels is important and what the assessments will cover.

So many times my students blow me away with their observations. Most of my students will do what I ask of them. They will complete homework, participate in class, and be respectful. Because of this, I sometimes don’t see their sassiness. Now I know how to bring out that side of them- just ask them how they feel about school and their learning. They’ll be honest, and what they say will make a lot of sense.

Many teachers are flipping their classrooms. Pre-work in the form of videos are assigned for homework, and students are expected to watch these videos and be prepared for an activity in class. What seems to be happening in many classes though is that students are being quizzed over the video they watched for homework. Now I’m all for making sure that students do their homework, but this seems like a “gotcha” rather than an opportunity for students to express their confusion. Showing lack of understanding on a quiz equals a failing grade. The point of flipping a classroom is to have students read or view the informational type materials at home so they can then practice these concepts during school when the teacher is there to offer support. Sadly, many teachers are using class time for more traditional paper-and-pencil type assignments instead of more collaborative, inquiry-based learning. Now, it seems, students are left to teach themselves not only at home but during class time.

Striking the balance between the traditional teacher who gives lectures and is a giver of information to the modern teacher who is the facilitator of learning is difficult. Teachers still need to allow students the freedom of choice in what they read, what they write, and how they prove that they have mastered a concept. However, teachers should not become so star-struck by new educational methods that are really just a repackaging of ineffective teaching strategies and styles. Our students need us. They need us to introduce concepts and lessons. They need us to clearly communicate the desired learning outcome. And they need us to help them through the process of learning so that they can show us that they understand.

How do you combine the latest educational strategies with the tried-and-true traditional ones?