In last week’s post, I wrote a little about the role that we as teachers play in developing our students. I suggested that one of our primary goals should be helping to develop a strong disposition of learning for our students. If you aren’t quite sure what that means, let’s unpack that phrase just a bit… I found a webpage from the New South Wales (Australia) Department of Education that had a great definition of learning dispositions:
The page goes on to define the following commonly identified dispositions that are relevant in thinking about future-focused practices. This list includes: Persistence; Agility and flexibility; Motivation and drive to learn; Metacognition; Problem-solving and questioning. If you’d like to know more about any of those ideas, follow the link that goes with quote above. At the end of the short article there are also some great links to go a little deeper, and even some ideas about how you might teach and model these skills.
So… Now that we have a shared understanding of that strong disposition of learning, the follow up question that many might come to is how do we develop those dispositions of learning in our students. I believe that one of the best ways to teach our students is through our own modeling. If we want our students to develop these dispositions, we have to first share them, then talk about how we use them, and then show our students the fact that we use them in the moment.
One of the ones that stands out most to me, and ties most closely with my post last week is the motivation and drive to learn. Part of the reason I started to write this blog was as a way to document my own learning, but I also began blogging as a way to share with you the awesome things I was learning. Those reasons are probably obvious to you. But one of the other reasons I started a blog was to model my own learning for each of the teachers and staff in our school. My hope was that through seeing the steps I was taking to search out and learn about my own curiosities, you might be driven to do the same. So now, I’m going to ask you to think about the question that I shared last week: What are you learning?
If we believe that our students need to have a disposition for learning, and we can agree that an important piece of that disposition is having a motivation and drive for learning, then the next conclusion is that each one of us has to be a learner too. What is the most recent educational book you read? When’s the last time you read a blog about education? When’s the last time that you searched Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or some other social media site to find ideas for activities that could impact learning in your class? And even more important than that, when’s the last time you modeled something that you learned for your students? Or shared with your students the fact that you had learned something new?
We can tell our students until we’re blue in the face that it’s important for them to be self-motivated, that they need to have a drive to learn, but one of the best ways we can show them why it’s important is by showing them that we are taking steps to continue to learn. Think about the power that would come from opening a lesson with “this is something that I have been learning about” and then going into an interesting, exciting, and engaging lesson. If the students see you as a learner, that may be a motivator for each kid in your class to think of themselves as a learner!
So here’s my gentle nudge for you to think about – how can you bring your own learning into your classroom? How can you bring your own passions into your classroom? Modeling yourself as a passionate and interested learner – about anything – will model for your students the value of being a learner. And then, if you want to take it to the next level, how can you encourage your students to bring their own learning and passions into your classroom? Give them a voice and a stage to share what they are learning about so that they can model for each other that disposition of learning!
What do you think? Can we encourage our students to have stronger dispositions for learning through modeling our own dispositions for learning? What haven’t I thought of? Share your thoughts in the comments below!