“Fear and Anxiety in Learning”

Wow – to think that grading might be interfering with  learning rather than encouraging it! What a concept!

A thoughtful post, “When Grading Harms Student Learning” by Andrew Miller, points out the aspects of grade grubbing that not only disrupt learning for learning’s sake, but are downright harmful.

We see this in kids with various learning disabilities, or kids who learn experientially, or who are creative. When we rely on teacher imposed/created evaluations, we really learn more about that teacher than about what the student learned. Of course we need some sort of assessment. But why does it have to be like always trying to keep your head above water instead of a positive environment? Students study to  avoid losing points — not to learn.

Zeros do not reflect student learning. They reflect compliance.

How does it encourage learning when students are always in the hole in terms of points? Can they ever pull themselves out of a bad situation? Students who perhaps have a learning disability, who had to work the night before a test, who might have test anxiety, etc., may not get great grades on a test. How does that motivate them to do better next time? I think it does exactly the opposite – many students would see this as a detriment. Why try?

I constantly go back to the story about a student who wrote a fantastic skit based on concepts learned in a history class. The teacher talked about how fantastic the skit was: it demonstrated complete understanding of the concept, the students were able to communicate the concept and apply it to another situation. It was worth a whole TEN points! The next day, the students had a 60 point multiple choice test. Huh. I know which thing I think shows more understanding, yet that was worth 1/6 of the multiple choice test.

Things about Dyslexia

I was so intrigued by this article, “20 Things Only Parents of Children with Dyslexia will Understand.”

I won’t repeat the article, but a few things of the twenty stand out that make life so very difficult for kids:

  • They feel dumb and stupid
  • They are exhausted by detail
  • They can be disorganized
  • They are not lazy or unmotivated — (but everyone thinks they are!)

But what people forget is the many, many gifts that dyslexics have — it’s just how schools are structured makes these kids struggle so much. Here are the gifts:

  • They view the world holistically
  • They are visual thinkers
  • They see solutions/things that others do not
  • They often have above average intelligence
  • Their sense of hearing is exceptional

The conclusion of the article is key:

Unfortunately, learning has been so intimately tied to reading that they have been at a clear disadvantage. Things are rapidly changing; however, in this wonderful age of technology. We are reaching a point at which we will be able to honor all learning styles, not just those that have traditionally met with success.


Fantastic idea about how to help high school students get ready for college — and I think it would help them STAY in high school!

Nick Stoneman writes about his school that schedules seniors in a way that gives them more autonomy over their day. In Nick’s words, this so-called “fifth grade schedule” is a problem: “Complacency is a risk when students have their time managed for them, as are both absenteeism and a lack of engagement.”

Even the brightest, most successful high school students have trouble when faced with the unstructured schedule of college.  This approach with a phased-in schedule would be a great way to give kids a safer place to experience this schedule, as well as keep kids engaged. Seniors are DONE with school by their last year, and giving them more responsibility and freedom could be a great way to keep them engaged.

Would some of them abuse the privilege? Of course. Guess what: they already find ways to sneak out of class and even if they are in class, they aren’t always present.

Will this happen? In most schools, no way, at least not for most kids. You’ll hear about transportation issues. You’ll hear that kids need to be in school. The transportation issue is real, although there must be ways to work around it.

Figure it out.

Shut-Down Learners

I have never posted just about the Shut-Down Learner concept by Dr. Richard Selznick. I’ve referred to it, but need a more thorough post.

I ran across Dr Selznick’s concept of the Shut-Down Learner about a year ago. It completely fits.

From his article, “When Learners Shut Down,” these are characteristics of a shut-down learner (before shutting down):

  • Tuning out in circle time
  • Highly spatial and visual learners
  • Active or over-active
  • Difficulty with language-based activities such as reading and writing

We’ve got three of the four.

Watch this video for an overview.

Screenshot of his PowerPoint that is it in a nutshell.

Screen Shot 2015-09-16 at 11.28.53 AM

“I Don’t Care”

Short piece from Edutopia today about Strategies for Reaching Apathetic Students.

This could be my daughter. I’m sure she looked like the stereotypical apathetic student. I know she was on her phone quite a bit. She didn’t take notes. She hated group work. She rarely did homework in the last two years of high school. She failed many tests. She hated writing papers. She was, I am sure, quite sassy in class. (She did, however, actively participate in class discussions. I regularly heard from teachers about how well she did in discussions, about how she had very astute observations and offered critical analysis.)

While her behavior may indicate that she didn’t care about school or anything, I can guarantee you that she did care. She cared so deeply that her struggles and difficulty meeting everyone’s expectations – difficulties that are not her fault, and are not because she’s not intelligent or talented – triggered serious anxiety and depression. Honestly, the “disabilities” are only disabilities in an academic setting like her high school. Look at the things she didn’t do: homework, tests,  writing. Hmmmmm — does that suggest a text based disability? YES! And, as she is a strong introvert, group work in class was excruciating.

As the article said, it became easier to say “I don’t care” than “I need help.”

In her case, the “I don’t care” came from hidden learning disabilities that she masked well that eventually manifested themselves in mental illness. It came from a school environment (both physical and pedagogical) that did not fit her needs. It came from a system that meant teachers had way too many kids to track. She switched teachers every trimester, so few teachers ever really go to know her to get below the “I don’t care.” It came from a learning environment that valued rote memorization and testing over creativity and critical thinking. The huge school and large classes meant that teachers had to do the easy-to-grade assessments, like multiple choice tests, as opposed to projects or more creative ways to express learning.

So, next time you see a student that doesn’t seem to care, don’t immediately blame them. Take a closer look. I bet there’s something else going on.