Why Less Is More If You Want Students To Learn
Educators are obsessed with quotes. Don't believe me? Check out Twitter.
Short quotes are my favorite.
It is quite amazing to read one that conveys enough meaning to have me contemplating for hours despite its length. Sometimes, the words are so powerful that my mind keeps coming back to them. It wrestles with them. Extracts more meaning. Subjugates them. Makes them my own.
Later, a life event occurs, and out of nowhere these same few words and their many meanings invade the space occupied by thoughts of the event, and I make a connection that wasn't there before. I have an epiphany. A eureka. A light bulb moment.
I learned to capture these moments. If I don't, the ideas come and go. Most of the knowledge remains, the recurring brain exercises made it inevitable, but that creative instant, that sudden spark of genius fades away if I don't grab it.
Depth. This is what learning is all about. Not mass. Not volume. Depth.
True depth of knowledge and understanding allows us to take a concept, apply it in a new way, and create something new. Maybe even something amazing. Something mind blowing. Something revolutionary.
These days, there's nothing revolutionary about the act of reading a book, but reading can still lead to revolutionary ideas. If you read a book once and put it away, most of the information will fizzle. But what if you take notes in the margins, summarize each chapter, participate in a book study, engage in Twitter or Voxer chats about it, and actually apply whatever it teaches in your personal or professional life? I’m talking exponential knowledge growth and in depth understanding here! And yes, you commit a lot more time, weeks even, but you get so much more out of it! If you've done it this way, you know. If you haven't, try.
If you're a teacher or a leader or a teacher leader and you've experienced a book this way, you apply this knowledge in your practice all the time. I might not know you, but I know this: The author's words have made a permanent imprint on your mind, you made many ideas your own, you tweaked and applied some to your craft, and you are creating new things with them. That is learning and it is beautiful.
Imagine if we spent that kind of time on concepts in the classroom. Break a big idea down into smaller ideas and spend one class period on each, linking the ideas together each time. Then, we have student groups summarize it all in a concise product such as an infographic. And guess what? They have to find images and icons that go with the concepts. They actually need to pick ones that fit, make sense, and can be understood by the intended audience. Then, they present their product, explain the concept, and answer questions about both. Now, that's a crap load of processing!
I know. I know. That might mean spending a couple weeks on a big idea. But remember the saying Less is More? Guess what? LESS IS MORE. Really. I am convinced that when we fly through the curriculum, the standards, what have you, most students only scratch the learning surface, memorize for the test, and forget rather quickly. This is because the information wasn’t applied and processed enough for it to move to permanent memory. So maybe sacrificing some of the content, while diving in deep on the most important concepts is the way to go.
We take our time. We let our students process. We have them practice. We teach them to apply. THEY LEARN TO CREATE.
I believe it is time for all teachers to shift from planning lessons and mapping curricula to putting the work into planning our students' learning. I think we'll like the results a hell of a lot better. What do you think?
You Have The Power To Make Ordinary Extraordinary. Do It Often.