Sunday, September 28, 2014

More Time or More Efficiency?

I have always struggled with the notion that hard work is equated with how much time someone puts into a task. There is certainly some value to the idea that the more time you put into a task, the better the outcome. However, efficiency is always more important than time. Time is relative to each task and more time does not necessarily mean a better outcome. For instance, if an apprentice spends hours upon hours studying the manual, but does not get to the hands-on, guided experience with the instructor, he/she will not ever become a master. If the athlete watches film, runs drills, but never gets to run the plays full speed, he/she will not become a great player. These examples are true no matter how much time one puts into studying theory. There has to be efficient time spent performing the experience related task to become successful in that area.

So many times we look at rigor the very same way. Our traditional notion of rigor is spending a lot of time studying. This can be true sometimes as it takes a certain amount of knowledge before someone can put anything into practice. However, spending the short class time we have with an experienced instructor simply listening to them talk is not exactly the true definition of rigor. I have taken classes where I have recorded hundreds of pages of notes but would certainly not consider them rigorous. However, the interpretation of many is that more homework equals more rigor. This could not be further from the truth, especially in middle school and high school classroom.

Teachers are the experts in their field. Time in class is precious. It is not good enough to give direct instruction the whole class period and then send students home to do the actual work. We have to break from this way of thinking. In class, students should be guided into doing hands-on, involved, meaningful work while the teacher is their for support. This is called efficiency and is far better than expecting students to learn by having them spend more time on it at home.

There is nothing wrong with homework. In fact, I think it is a great concept. The problem is that in many settings, it is misused. Homework should enhance the learning experience rather than replace it. Class time has to be the most efficient, effective, and important time in the learning process. Homework, should be expand the learning opportunities and allow for discovery. It shouldn't just be more time. It should actually be beneficial to students rather than an excuse to do more work. Many worry about preparing students for college (how college needs to change is a whole different story). However, teaching students how to research, write, organize, collaborate, and communicate, will prepare them. We will teach them to be intrinsically motivated by teaching them to love learning rather than obscurely tying their achievement to "more time." Students who know how to learn, will be successful in college. They will have the right skills. At that point, they will just have to try.

Our goal is to be more efficient and effective in our classrooms so that students can learn outside of them as well. Leading is Teaching.

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