Bear with me!
Those who know me and my writings also know that I try to impress upon parents, teachers, school administrators, and even politicians that (1) along with needing to be effective and efficient, learning experiences should also be enjoyable which I define as having learners experience success / accomplishment and (2) it’s success in learning that leads to motivation to learn more and not the other way around.
Why this blog?
Thanks to this Covid19/corona virus period I’ve rediscovered reading. While a large part of my time is spent reading, my reading is usually primarily professional in nature. I’m constantly reading articles, concept articles by colleagues and students, submissions to the journals that I edit or review for, education blogs, and so forth. I also spend a lot of time writing articles and blogs, cruising social media, and of course preparing, travelling to, and giving presentations. If you add to this family time (wife, four kids, two grandchildren), cooking every day (another one of my passions), bicycling, and walking my four Chihuahuas by the time I had some free time for other types of reading it was usually so late or I was so tired that I just fell asleep after a page or two. However, now that I have some extra time because all face-to-face presentations have been cancelled, I’ve rediscovered reading for ‘fun’. That’s led to my reading books like of Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami, Brief Answers to the Big Questions by Stephen Hawking, and most recently Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. For the few people – besides me – who’ve lived under a rock and haven’t read Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell discusses what makes an outlier an outlier, including doing all the work necessary to become one. In this he speaks of three things that make all the work needed to improve satisfying; actually so satisfying that you don’t mind putting in the extra time and effort to improve. One of them is what he calls ‘meaningfulness’.
We have been hearing from ‘progressive educational reformers’ for years that learning experiences should be meaningful to the student/learner. The problem here is that these reformers often look at meaningfulness in a very superficial and/or trivial way. They tell us that we need to create learning situations and experiences that kids can ‘relate’ to like cutting up pizzas instead of learning to work with fractions or using word problems meant to make the situation relevant for them. Meaningfulness, however, doesn’t – or shouldn’t – mean that the kids can relate to a topic that they are learning, but rather – to quote Gladwell – that there is a clear relationship between the effort that a person expends and the reward that a person gets (i.e., their success). In other words, that they feel success, accomplishment, and satisfaction from what they’ve done which, in turn, motivates them to continue, to go further, to learn more.
Not everyone likes pizza (or can relate to it) and not everyone sees the story in the word problems as relevant to her or his situation, but everyone enjoys the feeling of “Yes, I can do it!”