Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The 75% Teaching Solution, Part 2

The other day, I wrote about what was termed the “75% Teaching Solution,” and I’d like to take this opportunity to expand and clarify the remarks.

First, the word “Solution” was not in reference to the way teachers currently teach, as if it were a problem. It is in reference to what many consider a problem in education, student motivation.

We have heard time and again from teachers that say their kids aren’t motivated to learn. They lack drive. They have no interest.

This “solution” is an attempt to solve that problem. When a student’s personal initiative becomes the product of his/her performance, rather than the curve of their scores, then they can’t help but be motivated to produce, to get ahead, to out-perform the standard.

On the flip-side, we have heard time and time again from students who sincerely, but sadly, believe, “I’m not that smart, so what’s the point of trying?” This approach shatters that objection. By plugging away, an average student can make himself exceptional. They can learn that hard work pays off. That persistence and determination are rewarded. With a little nudging (by the teacher) to do that much more, they can exceed their own limited expectations. Gain a little self-esteem. And, who knows? Maybe that lesson will carry over into other classes, and life.

Second, the “75% Teaching” part of the title does not mean you teach 75% of the coursework, or at 75% of your own capability. In fact, if done right, it means more work for you and your students. You teach the same course, or workload, that you always have. That’s the standard. But, you raise the expectations for higher grades. Expand the standard, and make them go that extra mile.

For example, if you teach 9th Grade English, and normally assigned the following short stories as part of your curriculum (all are available at the Adam Smith Academy website in audio and text form):

The Interlopers, by Saki
The Gift of the Magi by O.Henry
The Necklace by Guy de Maupassant
The Cask of Amontillado by Edgar Allan Poe

To Build a Fire by Jack London

Students would still need to complete and PASS these requirements (with a score of 80% to PASS). But, in order to get a “B” in the class, the teacher may require 3-5 additional stories to be read and PASSed:

The Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allan Poe
The Rocking-Horse Winner by D.H. Lawrence
Tobermory by Saki

And, in order to receive an “A,” in addition to the typical novels and plays assigned (Romeo and Juliet and The Odyssey), they would need to read and PASS:

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
Moby Dick by Herman Melville

These are just examples, but I hope you get the idea. Teach the standard, and have them exceed it. Raise expectations. Not just of your students, but of yourself. You will need to create tests for these additional pieces, and make yourself available for questions. But, ultimately, the reward will be seeing what your kids can do if they put their mind to it.

As always, please do not hesitate to comment on this post at either the Adam Smith Academy site or below. We enjoy and welcome the feedback, since this post is in response to feedback that we have already received.

(Thank you to those fellow teachers that did!)

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