Looking at the classroom from the other side
In a recent post on Suite 101 Barbara Pytel writes about why students drop out. According to a survey of 500 recent drop outs, here are some of the reasons they decided to drop out of school:
• 47% said classes were not interesting
• 43% missed too many days to catch up
• 45% entered high school poorly prepared by their earlier schooling
• 69% said they were not motivated to work hard
• 35% said they were failing
• 32% said they left to get a job
• 25% left to become parents
• 22% left to take care of a relative
• Two-thirds said they would have tried harder if more was expected from them.
Looking at these numbers, educators should ask why. Why did 69% of students feel unmotivated? Why did 47% feel classes were not interesting? Why did two-thirds of students feel not enough was expected of them?
Part of answer might be found by looking inside a typical classroom. McREL has been collecting classroom observation data for over two years. Administrators and others, using McREL’s Power Walkthrough™ software have been in K-12 classrooms from coast to coast, in 27 states, and collected data from over 23,000 3-5 minute visits. What those data indicate might provide some clues to why some students drop out. Here is a picture of the “typical” classroom experience, as indicated by the Power Walkthrough data.
Students walk into a classroom and are seated in rows of desks for whole group instruction for the majority (54%) of their day. The teacher stands in front of the room lecturing for just over 20% of the day. When the teacher isn’t lecturing, students are doing workshops for 16% of their school day. Technology, the world students live in outside of the classroom, is only used by teachers in 22% of all lessons. Students only use technology in the classroom 21% of the time. Students are engaged kinesthetic activities in just 4% of all observations. Just under two-thirds of observations (60%) indicate that instruction is at the lowest two levels of the Blooms Taxonomy. Could this be a reason that two-thirds of dropouts feel not enough is expected of them?
“Yes,” you might say, “but that is high school, not elementary school. Elementary teachers have kids working in small groups and do much more hands-on activities.” Not according to the data. While the overall data indicate 54% of instruction is whole group instruction, the number for primary (K-2) classrooms is 50%. In fact, the data just doesn’t change much at all from primary through high school.
It is time to think about teaching and learning from eyes of the student. Let’s think about designing our classrooms and our instruction for the benefit of the student, rather than the convenience of the adult. As Marc Prensky writes, “Engage Me, Or Enrage Me.”