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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Real Goal of Education: Create Life Long Teachers & the Skiing Analogy.

This post is inspired by a thought that I can't shake out of my head.

We learn 85% of what we teach. Therefore we need to foster life-long teaching
--Christine Renaud

I believe that having students develop critical thinking or higher order thinking skills should be our main aim as educators.

How We Learn

10% of what we READ

20% of what we HEAR

30% of what we SEE

50% of what we SEE and HEAR

70% of what is DISCUSSED with OTHERS


95% of what we TEACH TO SOMEONE ELSE

William Glasser

So whether it's 85% or 95% it still is the highest form of learning possible.

Here is my analogy to kick things off: If I wanted to ski I could sit in a class and learn all about the history of skiing and the science behind the equipment. I could learn about how to stand on the skis and how to turn and shift my weight. I could sit and listen for days about everything that has to do with skiing and have a lot of knowledge about skiing. But none of that makes me a skier.

When we teach without having our students apply, analyze, synthesize, evaluate, and create we just fill their heads with knowledge. Which is okay, but it just makes them good at jeopardy and trivial pursuit, it doesn't make them a skier.

Sure we need to explain concepts and give students knowledge, but for them to really get it we have to strap them in the ski boots and send them off down the hill. Learning is filled with missteps and falls. When I was learning to play chess I learned much more from when I lost then when I won. When I learned how to ski the falls taught me a lot more than staying upright ever did, in fact the falls taught me to stay upright.

Keeping all this in consideration I have decided to have my students teach more. Fridays at our school are chaotic and short. I barely have time to take the roll before the bell rings. In the past I have done quizzes on Fridays. With this new frame of thinking as student as teacher, I will be instituting Student Teacher Fridays this year.

Here is my plan I am going to have students in groups of two with three groups presenting on Fridays. But not every Friday. I think I will wait at least a few weeks before they begin teaching. They will be given the topic we will be covering the week they present a few weeks in advance to get ready. Each of the three groups that presents will be given a slightly different aspect. For example if we are studying the five themes of geography one group would have location, another regions, the other place. Just so we aren't getting the same material from each group.

We all know that when we first started teaching we didn't really know what we were doing. I want them to be successful and prepared so I will be helping them out by having them prepare by using critical thinking assignments.

Knowledge students will do one of the following:
Make a list of the main events.
Make a timeline of events.
Make a facts chart.

Comprehension students will do one of the following:
Write a summary report
Cut out or draw pictures to show a particular event.
Illustrate what you think the main idea was.
Make a cartoon strip showing the sequence of events.

Application, Analysis, Synthesis, Evaluation students will do all of the following:
Determine importance of the material and create an outline of the main objectives for your presentation.
Create a presentation using Prezentit, Sliderocket, Prezi, Slide Six, Vuvox, or Projeqt.
Create a five question quiz that cover the most important parts of your topic.
Present in front of class.

Students need structure and guidance to be able to feel confident enough to get in front of the class and present. This list is not exhaustive or comprehensive and is certainly subject to change. Right now it is a framework of the ideas I have in my head. I will have them turn in their material a few days before so I can help them out and make sure they are ready to teach on Friday.

In the end I want to create skiers in my class and the only way to do that is to strap on the boots, grab the poles, and go down the hill. I'm certain there will be spills as well as moments of brilliance on the way down the hill. That's fine, it's part of the learning process. It's what all of us do everyday as teachers. And that's how we learn, we teach.


  1. Awesome idea! I also structure my classroom this way. Putting the student in the spotlight ensures that they are engaged, but more importantly, prepared and knowledgeable. Another plus: they will remember that information because they have an experience manipulating the facts to attach a memory to (sorry for ending with a preposition). That's experiential learning in a nutshell.

  2. Jared,
    Thanks for sharing this. Asking our students to teach puts their comprehension to the test and their audience is real and asking questions. In the end the kids are working harder and understanding the work more deeply. Having students write before teaching and then having them reflect afterwards really completes the learning cycle and can help them see what the process of teaching revealed to them.

  3. Sam,
    Yea I agree that this experience is invaluable. Ah great component that I need to add with the pre and post writing. I need a few questions to go with that piece. Thanks for commenting.

  4. I love how you are structuring this so that students own their comprehension and the comprehension of their peers. Not only do I see this helping with understanding and deeper knowledge, but also with making a space that is safer and collaborative. I see this turning your classroom into a community of learners, not individual ones. There is a human aspect of this that stems from compassion and passion.

    I too struggle with the idea of turning students into skiers instead of simply encyclopedias. In a sense, true experiential, project based learning is more about a process of trying, failing, reflecting and re-trying. I wonder what that goal more: having students teach other students what they know about a topic OR having students asking for feedback about something they have done WITH what they have learned.

    Not sure if this is making sense, but I worry that student presentations are still one person telling another person information. I too am trying to find more ways students can DO the topic - extend the topic - in a classroom. In a sense, how can we actually get ski boots onto students. Literally.

  5. Thanks for the comment and I appreciate your thinking. I am not sure how this is even going to work and I'm sure there will be some crashes along the way. What will be interesting to see is improvement from Sept to May. That is what I want to see. As we get further along I plan on allowing them more freedom and ability to pursue their passion. For example 4th term I am going to open it up and let them present what they want under the geography umbrella, which is big umbrella. It should be a great learning experience for all.