Sunday, June 3, 2012

The "Passion-Driven School:" Two great arguments that go great together.

There's an interesting connection between two blog posts I've read this morning. One is about student aspirations.

"What we need is 'a shift in emphasis from ‘raising aspirations’ to ‘keeping aspirations on track,'" says Annie Murphy Paul in her post, What’s the Best Way to Encourage Kids?

Turns out most kids start their school life with pretty high aspirations for what they want to do and be; it's the top-down, factory model of schooling that discourages kids from following their dreams.

I wanted to be a naturalist when I was in Elementary first year at middle school made me think Science was boring and arcane and had nothing to do with staring into tide pools or knowing the habits of birds. I remember doing litmus tests with those little strips. Testing for acid or base didn't connect to anything that had any importance to me.

Which brings us to Larry Ferlazzo's blog post, which discusses new evidence of the importance of building on prior knowledge. From the study:
"...prior knowledge changes how ...images are processed, allowing thousands of them to be transferred from the whiteboard of short-term memory into the bank vault of long-term memory, where they are stored with remarkable detail."

Encouraging kids to pursue the dreams of what they want to be or do (even if it is a 6-year-old wanting to be a fireman) means building on what they know. Why do you want to be a fireman?  I love the big extendable ladder. Wow, how does that ladder work, do you think? And so on.

These two concepts together lead us to a better argument for passion-driven learning -- arguments that are based on research as well as the necessity of refocusing the purpose of school. Rather than teaching content, we need to discover who these children are, and devote time, support and resources to helping them become the people then want to be.