As Educators, Maybe We Need to Behave Like Eye Doctors.
If you watched the “Queen’s Gambit,” you’ll remember a scene early on when young Beth visualizes a chessboard on the ceiling of her dormitory bedroom. Her fingers deftly move one piece here, another piece there. Aided by the rumbling of thunder outside, a rising musical score, and the darkened room, this is mesmerizing filmmaking. (If you didn’t see it, here it is.)
But even without those emotional aids, Beth mesmerizes us.
She is deeply intrigued by chess. Insatiably curious. She can hardly find enough books to study or opponents to play against.
She is mesmerized by chess.
I let out an audible sigh as I typed that last line because most of our students these days are anything but mesmerized. Even pre-COVID, studies show that student engagement drops precipitously as they move from elementary to middle school to high school. The reasons are many: too many standards to cover, too many assessments, too few electives, and too much focus on grades. And there’s more.
Which leads us to this week’s podcast episode and guest, Heather Clayton Staker. Heather is an educational researcher and a long-time advocate of disruptive innovation in education. She believes that the real culprit that fails to ignite our students’ curiosity is – however well-intentioned and demonstrated – too much teacher-led instruction: “I talk.” You listen.” The result: passive, disengaged learners.
Instead, Heather is a passionate advocate of student-centered learning where teachers act, as she describes it, more like “curators of learning experiences.” They behave somewhat like eye doctors, looking at learning through one “lens” and then another, all the time asking “Is your interest clearer with this? Or this?” The result is that students shift from a passive learner role to an active one, eventually driving much of their own learning.
The result: student curiosity is unleashed – perhaps mesmerizing even them.