Doing School

My original goal was to complete this blog post earlier in the week, but with my head swimming with so many ideas, I struggled to find an entry point. I’ve listened to many thought-provoking ideas during the first #IMMOOC video chat with Katie Martin, AJ Juliani, John Spencer, and George Couros, and read some insightful responses to questions during the Twitter chat.

After considerable reflection, there seems to be one theme that resonates with me: the notion of compliance vs. engagement. Are students simply ‘doing school’ by complying with system conventions, rules, and norms, or are they actively engaged? I’ve often heard educators ask this difficult question. Take this tweet from Sue Bruyns for example:

It doesn’t take long in a child’s schooling to learn how to ‘do school’. My daughter is only 7, and she’s already ‘doing school’, and doing it very well. Students are trained from the first day they enter school; they are told how it is, what’s expected, and that compliance will lead to success. Step outside of these boundaries, and you won’t be successful. Naturally, children want to be successful, so they choose compliance.

When we walk into a classroom, and see students working quietly, focused on what they’re doing, maybe they’re even using some shiny new piece of tech, we can be led to the assumption that they must be engaged, but are they? It’s a tough question, and the answer can be elusive unless we examine what is happening in the broader context of innovation.

In the introduction to his book The Innovator’s Mindset, George Couros writes about how compliance does not foster innovation. In fact, he states, “demanding conformity does quite the opposite.” Innovation is a way of thinking, inspired by the creation of something new and better, and driven by the careful consideration of what is best for student learning. Innovation plays a key role in identifying the difference between compliance and engagement. When innovation is embedded in pedagogy, teachers are crafting learning experiences for students that are authentic, purposeful, and relevant to the world in which they live.

Can we identify the difference between compliance and engagement? If we attempt to answer this question through the lens of innovation, I believe the answer is yes. If innovation is evident, students will likely be engaged. If innovation isn’t driving pedagogy, we’re likely witnessing compliance, despite what may initially appear as engagement.

To end, I’d like to draw attention to a Tedx Talk given by Kate Simonds, and mentioned in The Innovator’s Mindset. Take a some time to listen to her entire talk, especially around the 5 minute mark where she shares her experience with schooling.

4 responses to “Doing School

  1. Great post, David. This seems to be a constant battle as we empower educators to challenge the status quo and embrace an Innovator’s Mindset. Love the thoughts you shared here. Thank you.

  2. Great post & topic, David. My girls are now 17 and 14 and have been “doing school” for a long time. It’s frustrating to watch and we should know better. Also love the video you shared–one of my faves!

  3. Great connections David – I struggle sometimes with determining how “engaged” my students are in the tasks presented to them in class. Sometimes it may appear that they are not engaged as the volume level in the classroom rises, while at other times quiet does not necessarily reflect engagement. I hope that as I adjust my approaches to teaching that my students are more and more invested in driving their own learning, and by extension are more engaged with the process.

  4. Pingback: Buddy Blog: Breathing in the Flowers and Blowing out the Candles | The Plugged-In Portable·

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