…the source of intellectual growth is conflict: conflict between an old belief and a new experience, conflict between two beliefs that prove to be mutually exclusive, or conflict between your belief and mine. We make sense of things and then remake sense of things, and we do it from infancy to death.
We’re not blank slates or empty containers. “The pupil’s mind,” wrote Alfred North Whitehead, “is not a box to be ruthlessly packed with alien ideas.” Indeed, he suggested, an entire educational philosophy can be summed up in four words: “The students are alive.” More precisely, they—and we—come into every situation already holding a set of beliefs about the way the world works.
Coercing students to learn is so patently counterproductive (if, indeed, it is possible at all) that we should not only stop doing it but take the affirmative step of doing the opposite—that is, helping students play an active role in their own education.
Mistakes typically aren’t random: they reflect a particular way of (mis)understanding and thus provide a teacher with priceless information about what and how the student is thinking. To correct students promptly, or even to overvalue being right, is to lose access to that information. So we could say that great teachers don’t talk very much for two reasons: to maximize student talking but also to maximize teacher listening.
As one survey after another has confirmed, students are rarely invited to become active participants in their own education, whether they are in kindergarten or college. Indeed, the story of American schools is—and always has been—the story of doing things to students rather than working with them.
Great teachers are always looking out for real-life opportunities to help students play with words, reason with numbers, and think systematically in general.
The bottom line is that students generally learn better when they learn together.
To take children seriously is to value them for who they are right now rather than seeing them as adults-in-the-making.
I believe there is room for some direct instruction; the amount will depend on several factors. The first variable is age: while high school or college students shouldn’t have to spend whole periods listening to lectures, there should be even less lecturing to younger children—a few minutes here and there at most.
Children learn to make good decisions by making decisions, not by following directions.
Constructivism is derived from the recognition that knowledge is constructed rather than absorbed: we form beliefs, build theories, make order. We act on the environment rather than just responding to it—and we do it naturally and continually.
The use of punishments, even if referred to euphemistically as negative incentives, sanctions, or consequences, creates a climate of fear, and fear generates anger and resentment. It also leads people to switch into damage-control mode and act more cautiously. Human beings simply do not think creatively and reach for excellence when they perceive themselves to be threatened.…When teachers are deprived of job security or pay raises in an effort to make them perform better, they usually become demoralized rather than motivated.