Now that I’ve read about, discussed, and written about a number of different theories and ideas regarding teaching and learning, I’m thinking about the Memorable Learning Experience I wrote about a couple of weeks ago. The lesson that stuck with me–no personal belief represents a universal truth, no matter how widely accepted that belief might be–was so simply taught, just the right response from the instructor at the right moment to the right comment from a child.
As a teacher, what can I learn from this moment?
Teach truth at all times. That truth may be that students do not need to adhere to the ideals that they’ve been given or that those around them subscribe to. It may take hearing a figure of authority, such as a teacher–such as me–questioning internalized beliefs for them to see the possibility of truth outside of what they believe.
Students are always listening. It is possible that the student that most benefits from a lesson or idea are not the students that I am directly addressing. So, I must consider that everything I say conveys meaning and carries the authority of my status as teacher.
Problematize the prevailing paradigm. Students need to know that every system can be dismantled, that every structure is one they are free to step outside of. I must model how to critically examine assumptions, mandates, and supposed truths so that students can learn this process for themselves. This is a critical process for all activists to understand.
Connecting these ideas to what I’ve learned and thought about this term, I realize these are all Social Cognitive ideas. That moment for me and the moments I want to foster was about supporting my ability to self-advocate. That ability is rooted in high self-efficacy.
Assessing this sort of learning requires accessing students changing thoughts and beliefs. Asking questions about the validity of beliefs commonly held as truth demonstrates that the lesson is taking root. Students pushing back against each other’s assertions and beginning the process of problematizing the social norms and expectations they encounter are evidence that these lessons are being learned.
I’ve had other moments of learning similar to that moment in kindergarten, but none as powerful. I’m still reflecting on that moment and processing exactly what made that moment stand out so starkly and why there is no other lesson that quite approached it in meaningfulness.
Schunk, D. (2012). Learning theories : an educational perspective. Boston: Pearson.