“Intelligence is not to make no mistakes, but quickly to see how to make them good.”
“Intelligence should never be equated with academic skills,” ~ Dr. Sherri McCarthy, associate dean for academic services at William Woods University (Fulton, MO)
“The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.”
When I was teaching full time, I read an article about “failure” in a Japanese classroom. Please forgive me: I did search for the source material and was unsuccessful. If anyone DOES locate it, please let me know so I can paraphrase it/quote it properly.
In a math or science class, a student came up with a different answer on a test then what was expected by the teacher.
Quick: how would a “normal” classroom teacher react? Time!
The answer would be wrong, marked wrong, maybe get an F (for failure), and then try to explain how to get to the “correct” answer. The student is frustrated, the teacher is frustrated, and if the grade gets home, the parents are frustrated. Many students, when this happens often enough, take on the emotion of the above picture: “I Feel Like A Failure.”
The Japanese model that I read about: the teacher asked the student to show the class how he came to that conclusion. Instead of shrugging his shoulders and retreating, he went and explained in detail how he got that answer. The way he did it actually made sense, not only for the student but the teacher as well. This “backwards” teaching moment turned into an actual breakthrough for the student and his teacher. They found the point of divergence together. He learned a valuable lesson and the teacher learned about how that student thought, how he worked things out, and was able to reach him on a level that might not have been attained if they had gone the normal “That answer is wrong. Do it the right way.”
and we should treat it with the same status.”
~Sir Ken Robinson~
What the Japanese teacher discovered was a student who creatively found a method that he could justify; his trial and error lead to discoveries. Einstein and Edison made many trials and errors. If they, and others like them, let the “failures” stop them, we would be without many things. Some things we might be better off, but…Polio Vaccine? Was it discovered the first time out? Other things that have improved our lives over the years? Where do we go when we have students who say “I Feel Like A Failure”?
I like an inquiry based model, an exploratory model of learning where there aren’t always set answers but ones that not only further the subject being examined but allow a great deal of critical and creative thinking. Do we need thinkers or people who just follow along and regurgitate information?
Paolo Freire in his book, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, states:
The teacher talks about reality as if it were motionless, static, compartmentalized, and predictable. Or else he expounds on a topic completely alien to the existential experience of the students. His task is to “fill” the students with the contents of his narration — contents which are detached from reality, disconnected from the totality that engendered them and could give them significance. Words are emptied of their concreteness and become a hollow, alienated, and alienating verbosity.
The outstanding characteristic of this narrative education, then, is the sonority of words, not their transforming power. “Four times four is sixteen; the capital of Para is Belem.” The student records, memorizes, and repeats these phrases without perceiving what four times four really means, or realizing the true significance of “capital” in the affirmation “the capital of Para is Belem,” that is, what Belem means for Para and what Para means for Brazil.
Narration (with the teacher as narrator) leads the students to memorize mechanically the narrated account. Worse yet, it turns them into “containers,” into “receptacles” to be “filled” by the teachers. The more completely she fills the receptacles, the better a teachers she is. The more meekly the receptacles permit themselves to be filled, the better students they are.
Education thus becomes an act of depositing, in which the students are the depositories and the teacher is the depositor. Instead of communicating, the teacher issues communiques and makes deposits which the students patiently receive, memorize, and repeat. This is the “banking’ concept of education, in which the scope of action allowed to the students extends only as far as receiving, filing, and storing the deposits. They do, it is true, have the opportunity to become collectors or cataloguers of the things they store. But in the last analysis, it is the people themselves who are filed away through the lack of creativity, transformation, and knowledge in this (at best) misguided system. For apart from inquiry, apart from the praxis, individuals cannot be truly human. Knowledge emerges only through invention and re-invention, through the restless, impatient continuing, hopeful inquiry human beings pursue in the world, with the world, and with each other.
Allow the students to learn from trial and error, to explore new avenues of thought, to experiment and question, to feel that his/her learning has meaning. Celebrate a different paradigm of education worldwide. We don’t need to destroy all we have in place. We DO need a change of how we approach things, and the only thing we need to do away with:
We’ve Always Done It This Way.