Today’s student progresses faster in an environment that is not the traditional hierarchal but more equal in terms of defining the roles of instructor and student. Although the shift from authority figure to facilitator may be difficult for many teachers to accomplish yet that is what students are asking of their teachers. They are looking for a different type of leadership in the classroom. Most students wish to find the answers for themselves, rather than look to the teacher for the answers. There is a sense of accomplishment in discovering knowledge and it is a proven fact that students have better retention of what they learn for themselves. Allowing students to form learning groups and find their own answers gives them a sense of accomplishment and in return their confidence level rises.
So what is preventing teachers from allowing students to practice more self-directed and collaborative learning? As teachers, we don’t like to admit we don’t know everything and often feel threatened if a student challenges our expertise. Yet many of the most famous scientists and philosophers admit they only achieved their greatest discoveries when they acknowledged they were at a loss to find the answers and began to look for solutions where they least expected. Many minds working on a solution to a problem provides objectivity where one mind may not see the numerous possibilities. It is time to empower our students by allowing them to discover the learning material for themselves. Self-directed learning and learning in groups are two ways that teachers can achieve this goal. By providing our students with resources that can be used for research and letting them look for the answers, individually or collectively, we are also teaching them problem solving skills that will help them later in life. It would be a disservice to the community not to produce graduates who are capable of finding unconventional solutions to the ever increasing challenges facing our communities.
© Reid Anderson, 2012. All rights reserved.