Dec 15, 2011
Comments Off on Because They Do It, Does It Make It Good?

Because They Do It, Does It Make It Good?

It’s easy when students do the work, no questions asked. It’s nice to see them engaged in the task we have given them. It’s a pleasure helping students work through an assignment they’re working on. In fact, for many, this is a great day of teaching. To many; students, parents and teachers alike, this is the personification of what school’s all about.

Then there are those times where students resist. They put up roadblocks. They fight back. They challenge the task. I hear it often, students feel comfortable voicing their reservations, asking questions, pushing the activity.

But sometimes, that feels so, ineffective. It leaves me feeling … uneasy, unsure of whether I’ve done my job. Especially, when I look into another room and find students diligently engaged in the task.

Then I think about it, maybe even rationalize it some, and consider the engagement of a kid who scoffs and challenges versus the engagement of a kid who willingly fills in the blank.

The thing about our pursuit of “student engagement”, sometimes students engage in bad pedagogy.  In our pursuit, for the attention and affection of our students, we have to ensure that the work we do is valuable.  Just because a student does the work, doesn’t mean we’ve engaged them in learning (marks economy) or critical thinking or valuable lessons.

Isn’t that the next step of authentic learning? Recognizing that doing the work, without questioning it, is problematic. Our job as teachers, and that which we should instil in our students, is that we should always question the work we are asked to do. Especially as we move closer towards the creative-class economy.

This is not to say that when students participate willingly the learning isn’t happening, but rather to say, that we need to be aware, even if students are diligently working away on their assignment.


As I re-read this post, drafted a few weeks ago, I’m well aware that the post insinuates the motive of the student is paramount to creating authentic learning experiences for our students. Yet, I don’t suggest how to do it.

I think my main idea is to have a conversation with each student, often. It doesn’t need to be formalized and rubric-ized. Talk to them to understand their reason for doing the work (or not doing the work, both are relevant).

The other thing is to be continuously reflective of the work we ask our students to complete. Just because students did a “good job” or “enjoyed” the work, doesn’t mean you should do it.


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