To Learn, Unlearn First
A colleague recently observed that old teaching habits are hard to change. I
believe this is doubly true when one has been successful at a certain kind of
activity or within a profession for a long period of time. After all, if
routines and processes have worked well for many years, it's hard to find an
incentive to attempt something new, no matter how fruitful it could be.
Yet, with our rapidly changing culture and all the advances we've made in understanding how we learn though discoveries in neuroscience, teachers are continually being asked to embrace new methods in the classroom. To make any lasting change, those of us who work in schools will need to unlearn certain pedagogy in order to explore new methods of teaching. Or another way of looking at it: to make space for the new, we need to discard some of the old. To do this, the first question we may ask is "Are there habits of teaching that are getting in the way of my thinking, acting, or understanding in ways that could help my students today?" And once we arrive at one or two set routines we'd like to discontinue, we should ask "How do we measure success of the new pedagogy that we hope to implement?" Administrators who encourage teachers to be innovative can be helpful with each of these steps by brainstorming new approaches and providing thoughtful feedback. And students can also have a voice in the process--in fact, they often provide the most candid critiques of all whether we ask for it or not! Most importantly, teachers have to trust their instincts for what feels right and ask key questions of themselves. Only then can the least effective habits be discarded to make the necessary room for all that can come next.
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