Friday, October 28, 2011

Teaching Is All About Students

Whether we teach young kindergarten children, older graduate students or anyone in between, teaching is all about the students. My sophomore level Schools and Society students have been spending two hours a week in a public school classroom for the past six weeks. For most of them this has been their first formal experience on the other side of the desk, so to speak. Each week, they have been journaling about their experiences based on a journal prompt I have given them. This week, I asked them to bring to mind six of the students they have been working with (K - 8th grade), codify the students' names and then write a few comments next to each student that describes each student as they see them.

I haven't read their journals yet but my hunch is that close to 99% of their comments will be in what we call the affective/social area of learning. In other words the comments will identify the students attitudes, values, and social attributes. Very few will describe the students' cognitive (thinking/knowledge) attributes or their  psychomotor (physical skill) development. This is quite natural because when we first interact with other individuals the first thing we are aware of are these types of characteristics especially when individuals are observed in a social context.

But the primary goal of teaching is to help students learn in the cognitive domain of learning. Of course, learning in the social/affective and psychomotor domains are important but it is the development of a student's knowledge and understanding, for the most part, that is the primary goal of teaching. So on Monday when I meet with the students, we'll go over their student observations and talk about how they can change their perceptions of their students through changing the way they observe and interact with them. The more they can learn how to find out what their students know and understand the better teachers they'll be.

And the  more I'll know about how my students think  in the context of becoming a teacher too.      

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