Monday, May 7, 2012

One Size Fits All?

As I sit and think about the strategies teachers used for me during my learning career and the strategies I use for my students throughout their learning career one thing becomes clear: there is no one size fits all approach.  I continue to ask myself where this can be found.  Certainly it would make life easier.  I don't read too much about it in text books.  I've heard about it in theory.  I've never seen it in practice.  A big reason there is no one size fits all approach is because today’s learners have and need a variety of different skills.  

Some students need a hands-on approach.  Some students just need a teacher to guide them.  In my current job as an eLearning coach I have learned about many different types of learning models.  I'm a proponent of flipped class, PBL, flat class, and differentiated instruction.  Of course there are many others too numerous to list.  I need to sit back and realize all of these learning models have a place and time to be used.  There is no ONE educational model that is going to satisfy the needs of EVERY student.  I have to take what I know about the student and what I want them to know and find a way to put them together.  These learning models are here to help me, not make or break me.

I know that some students are going to respond well by doing the content learning outside of class.  These students just need me to facilitate the class rather than direct their learning.  The flipped class model allows me to do so.  I also believe my students have to participate in global learning networks if they are going to compete globally.  The flat class model helps me accomplish this.  I know for a fact that I remembered more as a student from posing my own questions and finding a way to answer them.  PBL helps me accomplish this.  Of course, we all know students learn at different rates and in different ways.  I use many concepts I learned through differentiated instruction to help me create a unique experience for learners.

The most powerful tool I have in my arsenal is communication with students.  Simply by talking with them I gain a better understanding of what it is they need.  I also talk with them about things other than school.  Let’s face facts students have a life outside of school and they are often more interested in it.  I do this to help me relate content and anything else to the student.  I have the ability to create surveys, polls, etc., but at the end of the day building a working relationship with the student will carry our learning further.  Having a weekly check-in our round table discussion in which students can simply explain academic, social, or other issues they have helps develop a trust between teachers and students.  This communication piece becomes a way for me to engage students into the lesson.

Any way I look at this I see that we are dealing with people and not products.  We are always going to have a need of finding different ways to do things because no two products are ever going to look the same.  Therefore, the process is never going to be the same.  Continued learning with strategies and techniques will make us better, but not if we don't have some sort of dialogue with students to find out what they need to know.