Thursday, May 05, 2016

Learning and Achievement

This post from noted educational provocateur Will Richardson got me thinking deeply about relationship between learning and achievement. I have read Richardson's writing for a long time. Many times I find him challenging and a bit abrasive. This post was no exception.

The post was hard on schools, who he claims want to keep parents out of the loop about what learning is taking place in a school, and also on parent, who may not care engage their student in conversations about what is really being learned during the day. But one idea did resonate with me -- the idea that most of us (teachers, parents, and students) end up, whether we mean to or not, caring more about achievement than learning.

When parents look at an online grade program, they may see that a student received 18/20 on a quiz or 83% on a test. But this is a record of achievement. Does this mean that new or deep learning has taken place? Not necessarily. I've encountered many students during my career that were high achievers because they "did school well." They may have been learning deeply, but they also easily could have been simply completing the list of expectations in a timely fashion. In other words, achievement does not always equal learning.

But learning will ALWAYS lead to achievement, especially deep learning. Now the achievement may not always be in the form that is traditionally recognized, such as grades, GPA, or promotion to the next class. But it will be there, even in failure, because deep learning often results from initial failure (ask Thomas Edison!).

I guess this helps express while I feel so strongly about Lights Academy, which we have built at Lutheran High School. Lights Academy focuses most specifically on the learning, at least in the design of the experience. Many students come in with their efforts placed on achievement first and leave with the understanding that the learning comes first. That is an important transition -- one that will serve them well throughout their lives.

This is not to exclude the idea of achievement, especially since this is measured as significant in many other areas of education (such as college admissions). But a student (or a school) who focuses on achievement first or solely will have a far less substantial and engaging educational experience than otherwise possible.

Agree? Disagree? Let's get a conversation going! Share your thoughts as a comment to this post.

1 comment:

  1. Great stuff once again, Dave. Love the Edison reference btw! I also love that you "went there" with this discussion. I believe most (if not all) educators would concur around the examples referenced of high-achievers who didn't necessarily learn much. Fascinating hypothesis here, Dave, that has my wheels spinning...and I still don't believe that there is an industry in our world that continues to call for change, adaptation, evaluation, and flexibility more than education. Thanks again brother- your constant pursuit of relevance, best practices, and serving kids is inspiring.