The US public education gets worse and worse, whether it’s class sizes going up, or layoffs due to lack of funding; our pupils just aren’t learning anymore. We face lower standards of return, even though grades continue to rise, this is a problem, it either means that pupils are being trained to be pattern recognizers, that don’t understand why the pattern is, or that the teachers are blatantly lying about pupils competence with curves. We need a new way to get the key skill for maintained learning: understanding. Here is my suggestion for understanding based learning, fit into 15 minutes.
Normal class times are generally in the 45-90 minute range, depending on how the school defines it’s periods, I’d prefer a 45 minute course daily. Working with 15 minute intervals makes it simple to repeat the process and to make sure pupils grasp and understand concepts. The key to understanding is simplifying to a key point of information that you want them to understand. This is particularly necessary in Elementary schooling, to build up a foundation of understanding, and problem solving skills.
Prepare the topic with the pupils, so that they have a basic idea of the concept, you are working on. Provide the pupils with a couple test problems, non-multiple choice, to test their understanding.
This is time for the pupils to work through the problems to show how much they understand.
Check pupils responses to this work, so you can see who had issues, and where the issues were. Make sure you are interacting with all of the pupils as a group, and as individuals.
Have a class discussion calling on those that did particularly well, and unwell, to help gather learning concepts that some pupils gathered and others did not, this will help in the future.
Take those that did well and partner them with those that didn’t do as well.
Repeat this process until the end of class or until all but possibly one or two pupils grasp the concept, if they do this give them a 5 minute break, and an example problem for tomorrow’s concept. While most of the class works on this, you should interact with the remaining pupils, that don’t grasp the concept, and help them to understand that concept, as well as the new concept in advance, to help prepare them for tomorrow’s work.
If you can’t get a child or even an adult to understand a concept within 15 minutes, then the problem is most likely with you, and not the pupil(s). If there is a problem, you need to look at how your teaching, what they don’t understand, and what you can do to improve. You have all the data in the work the pupils did, so you can go through and check for where they might be missing the connection.
One benefit to this, is you aren’t overloading the mind with brand new concepts simultaneously, this helps prevent the pupil from feeling overwhelmed. A second benefit, is that you get to interact with the children one-on-one this is something that is lacking in most classrooms, and likely why the parental influence is a so much greater determining factor. Another benefit is that it is quick, it lets you know if there is a problem that you need to focus on or not, it is also quite fluid.
The fluidity, is the final benefit, which allows you to do a weekly, biweekly, monthly, recovery of knowledge quickly, by recovery I mean returning memory. Memory degrades over time, but if it recurs even slightly enough to re-jog it, it becomes wholly new again, and will last longer, this is the forgetting curve. Following the concept of the forgetting curve, you can cover 4 concepts a week, and still fit a day for recovery for all four concepts into your plan, to help increase retention. Another benefit is that you get to gain more data into how the pupils have retained the concepts, so you can better predict when you’ll have to cover the information, again.
This post is complete conjecture, and isn’t based on any significant facts.