Compliance vs Learning

Once upon a time, I had a discussion with a colleague about how teachers integrate technology into their classrooms. We seemed to agree that if a teacher wants to fully harness the power of technology in the classroom, they must be willing to adhere to a teaching style that promotes “higher-level thinking” or “deep learning” (hereafter referred to as just HTL).  This isn’t a post about how students use technology in a class and therefore it is HLT. That is a fallacy. Just because technology is used does not inherently make it HLT, and HLT does not need to use technology. This post is about how we get teachers to practice higher-level thinking in their classrooms.

No!  The answer is not “use technology”, and it isn’t “ask deep questions”. The answer is also NOT:  “the Cs”, “inquiry-based”, “trust the students”, “see what happens”, “21st Century Skills/Fluencies”,  “project-based learning”, “be okay with not having all the answers”, or “guide on the side”.  It is not just one of these things; it is all of them and more. Promoting and practicing higher-level thinking in the classroom is an approach and a process, and can never be summed up with a buzz word or phrase.

This was when my colleague and I really started wondering: why aren’t more teachers on board with teaching in a way that promotes HLT or Deep Learning?  This led us to speculate: do teachers want their students to learn or to comply?

Well of course we all want students to learn, but often we see a student’s compliance with a lesson as education. To some degree this is true and necessary, but I believe that a “good”, compliant student is not going to be as educated as the one who explores her own interests, asks interesting questions, or dares to disrupt the status quo.

If, from start to finish, we want students to produce the result we want, then we sell the whole education system short. We’re not educating, we’re feeding and informing. On the other hand: if, from start to finish, we allow students to make every choice without guidance, we sell the public short because we’re not educating.  This upcoming question is not intended to be as bipartisan as it seems, but I want you to think about what side you are on.

Do we, as educators and educational institutions, want students to explore and learn, or do we want them to comply and produce the results we want? 

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