It's too easy to point out Confucius' saying that ends with "I do and I understand". But it's also true! Learners must be highly involved in experiential teaching strategies to be successful 21st century citizens.

Choose and Choose Wisely IV

We can get to all the good reasons why but this post will crown off the cautionary red flags to weigh before coming over to “our side”.

Teachers need to be comfortable in their new role.

Wiser words were never spoken!

In this case I am secure in saying that this is true for any new strategy that a teacher may be willing to include in her arsenal. Here are some reasons for this

1. It takes about seven applications before a change can become part of a teacher’s comfort zone.

– We have all seen this happen. Administration trots in the latest innovation du jour. They tout it as the Holy Grail. They bring in a prophet from another land who demonstrates the innovation and then jumps on her horse and all too often rides out of town. Some teachers, the Early Adopters, are eager to give it a try and unfortunately all too often, the effort flops or sputters. The teachers become discouraged and goes back to their old tried-and-not-so-true- but- at-least-comfortable strategy. The potential Late Adopters and the nay sayers smirk into their hands and say “Better you than me!”

Of course, this is mitigated if the administrators understand change well -enough to recognize that the Lone Ranger approach to Professional Development always leaves room for the bad guys to come back to town after he leaves. So wise Professional Development always includes recurrent support systems and coaching to embed the change.

2. Simulations especially, and experiential teaching strategies have to be aligned with your own teaching values and philosophy.

– If the teacher perceives herself as the sage on the stage and does not believe that  children can learn any other way except at the feet of the wise and all-knowing content giving teacher she will be hard pressed to give over her class to a set of methodologies that lessen her grip on the class dynamics. The only way a teacher or anyone can change their paradigms is by continuously being exposed to and invited into a professional dialogue about the values of the proposed change.

This never comes easily and the change-leader is well advised to work hard to assemble evidence, show research, offer modeling opportunities and continuous conversation to move the teacher from point A to point Z.

And with this, saved for the next post, is the issue of showing how these strategies can be properly and validly evaluated for meaningful learning against the Core Content standards.

3. Your students have to be comfortable in both their role and in your role. I have learned this the hard way: I had a teacher whose chalk and talk; guide on the side; read from the text book teacher methods were deadly for his class. After a particularly troublesome observation of one of his lessons I began to offer him experiential strategies to consider. He feigned interest and asked if I could model these for him. Anxious always to teach students I enthusiastically agreed to come back the following week with a role-play strategy based on a novel he was reading in class. I set up a debate between the protagonists. I showed the students how to debate, gave them time to prepare and set them loose.

The lesson didn’t flop but it certainly was no Broadway boffo success. The teacher, I think to this day, “smirked” and said something like “Oh well….”

What had gone wrong among other things was that I had forgotten my audience. These kids had been deadened, not only by this teacher, but by many perpetrators of lecture-based drone on lessons. They were conditioned to it. That I now was going to reverse their own learning habits in one or two lessons simply was not going to happen overnight.

The lesson for me was the realization that as with any set of students, they need to be acclimated to their learning expectations, whether the strategies are state of the art of less than that.

The next post will speak to the biggest issue of all. “Can I really expect students to  learn and to show that they have learned?”

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