applied learning, deeper learning, knowledge, learning, memorization, progress, standardized testing
As another school year ends, thoughts naturally turn to student progress. What have the students learned this year? What should be practiced over the summer? Are they prepared for the next grade level?
The answer to many such questions depends on the goal. Grades don’t really tell a story, nor does standardized testing. Is the goal memorization, acquisition of a skill, critical thinking, or extending thinking and applying learning to new situations? Learning begins with recall or memorization. Whether learning to ride a bike or read a book, you begin by memorizing the parts of the desired action or outcome. However, most learning has to go deeper in order to be meaningful. Learning has to have an application. Deep learning is applied to other situations and allows for creative and extended thinking.
Tests are given to assess knowledge. What they typically measure is memorization. Think back to a test you took in school, maybe in a subject that you didn’t like or was hard for you. Do you recall much about that subject? Did that information stay with you? Probably not. If you are lucky, you had a good enough memory to pass the test and move on… and you wanted to move on!
Now think about something you really wanted to learn. When were you finished learning? When did you decide you had enough? My guess is that you still aren’t done and are continually learning about a subject that interests you. Not only are you still learning – you are well beyond the memorization or summarization phase of learning. You are probably applying the knowledge you’ve gained to other situations, asking questions to further consider the ideas and in new contexts.
Progress is measured by an individual’s learning. What has your child learned this year?
A fellow parent at our public/traditional school is a mathematician. He works at UCLA and applies math models to study how contagious diseases spread. We once discussed teaching maths, and I brought up the Montessori way, to the extend of my knowledge. He told me about the Singapore maths. He loves them as he thinks they teach kids maths at their core. He thinks that math is to be taught as a language, same than English, so student acquire a deep understanding oh the ways they work. And guess what? The early years are critical, as with a language. He pointed out to me that at our school, maths are taught “traditionally” which means not only just memorizing them, but also applying methods that are not explained and hence rely on tricks. Ex: when you multiply but 10, you add a zero after the number being multiplied. Now conscient of tricks, on one occasion, I could tell M. was stuck at divisions because she was applying a trick and she did not understand what was going on. It was something as simple as 120/4. She was taught 1 is smaller than 4, so you take 12. But, that 1 is a hundred, and a hundred is bigger than 4…? What’s the deal?! Ta-da! Family stamp game to the rescue to make her visualize that this 100 is actually a full block: it is not “a” hundred, but “one” a hundred. Two years out of Montessori, it still helps us, but out of context (the school), it gets harder to keep it live. So what did M. learn this year: in maths, tricks… So sad!
Lisa A Lalama said:
Thanks for your comment. Many of us learned math tricks. As a Montessori teacher it was eye-opening to finally understand the reasons behind the tricks. Montessori education gives students the opportunity to understand the why…It takes some time, but is a great opportunity.