September 8, 2023
Progressive education offers a unique opportunity for students and families to think about learning holistically. Progressive education focuses on “learning by doing,” as opposed to memorizing. Many of us have the experience of relying on memorization as the heart of the learning experience. We often relied on cramming. Cramming is the process of stuffing in as much content as possible in order to pass a test. As soon as the test has passed, we frequently forget everything we crammed. Progressive education encourages students and teachers to think and do, rather than cram and forget. We know that learning is not linear. We know that skills are developed with application in the real world and we know that every student learns in different ways at different speeds.
As educators, we regularly ask ourselves: “How do I know my students are learning?” We regularly seek evidence of learning and it comes in many forms – class discussions, homework, projects, collaborative work, classwork, journals, reflections, and 1:1 conversations between students and teachers. We are also looking at the various ways that we set expectations and offer feedback to students. Feedback comes in as many forms as ways that we collect knowledge about the student experience. We want students to learn how to dialogue and self-advocate. This comes through meeting with teachers and asking questions.
As parents, it is essential to regularly ask your students what they are working on and to ask them what they are learning. Ask them to show you. Many students will share and many students will not. Encourage your student to meet with their teachers, ask questions about their process and the outcomes. The journey of learning is as important as the outcome and students need encouragement to pay attention to both, regardless of where they think the journey leads.
When students learn to talk about their learning experience, they are engaging in a process called metacognition – thinking about thinking. Reflecting on the learning process deepens learning. This is one of the reasons that talking with our students about what and how they learn nurtures their growth.
So this is your homework: please directly engage your student about their learning. Regularly. Be willing to move beyond an initial “we didn’t do anything at school” or the occasional “it’s all the same.” Regular engagement will empower your student to share, learn, and grow. Progressive education requires connection between home and school. Between play and work. If your student asks you why you’re suddenly so inquisitive, you can tell them, “Clarke said I had to.”
Head of School