We’ve heard from you that students’ passions and interests can play a part in helping them learn. For example, Nancy told us:

When students are offered more flexible learning opportunities it opens the doors to their interests and passions in their world, and thus makes their learning more meaningful and relevant.

How can we allow students to use their interests and strengths in ways that will allow them to learn what they need to learn?

79 Responses to “ Student interests/passions and learning ”

  1. Nelson says:

    The students should be asked every year of what they would like to do when they grow up and be taught that so they can find out if they are good at it or not. With personality testing, and teachers with Masters, it is very likely that students will get the right guidance into knowing their optimal choices before the age of 18.

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  2. Frances Lin says:

    I really like the idea on Personalized learning and I do agree that student interests’ oriented curriculum definitely could bring marginalized students back to school. However, with current classroom size (30+) and system (integrated system), I am not sure if this plan is doable. Teachers need to cover specific topics (PLOs)each year and they have to take care of diverse students, making sure those weaker ones on task. It is almost impossible to incorporate personalized plans of 30+ students into the real classroom setting unless the classroom size could be reduced and students are per-arranged into their interest-oriented classroom

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  3. Felicity says:

    I agree with comments below that streaming makes sense, but the whole process must start with a concerted effort and significant time spent uncovering each student’s passions and aptitudes. Given that all of us pursue careers matched to our interests and abilities it makes sense to start this process earlier. There could be schools within schools – eg. take all high schools and divide them up into mini-schools along the lines of the mini-school/alternative school system in Vancouver. This need not be a physical division into different buildings, but simply a series of semi-independent entities within one building in which teacher’s specialties and the nature of the program overall are matched to those of the students – assessment could be different in each.

    My daughter applied to the mini-school system last year and luckily ended up in a program that should be well matched to her interests and abilities. It is a most interesting program in which arty students can approach science and math through the arts. I was struck however by the high demand for a very low number of spaces and saddened that such a small percentage of worthy students would ever get a chance to attend one of these specialist schools. Changing the whole system to a more small-is-beautiful approach (and yes that includes class sizes) might provide these opportunities so many more kids and lower the dropout rate.

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  4. Sylvia says:

    Hi all,

    Following the link for Nancy, I have a glimpse of what people are thinking about flexibility in students’ learning: providing students an excellent opportunity to learn deeper and wider, on-line schooling, personalized learning, teachers’ difficulties in managing the complexity of the task, and so on and so forth. I think these are all reasonable praises, suggestions, and concerns.

    However, I am afraid to say that all are mostly workable for well-to-do students, or for some Thomas Edison like students.

    How about turning or expanding the Advanced Placement Program and opening some college courses for these students to advance their study? This way we still can add more flexibility while keeping teachers’ task less complicated.

    And keep pre-post-secondary public-education for more ordinary style and simpler. I think public schools should stop competing with private schools. And focus on teaching humanity, not training elites.

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  5. JFW says:

    I am not really sure that we can, especially since Minister Abbott took away class size limits in classes ranging from gr 4-12. How is a teacher supposed to plan for 30+ individual interests and strengths? How do you teach to 30+ interests? Each grade level in each subject allows students to learn a variety of topics and they differ from year to year. Over the course of their education they are exposed to a wide variety of topics and are free to explore their interests in university.

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  6. Betty lLopez Murray says:

    Inquirying exploring, building, problem solving, collaboration, cooperation adjusting and trying new things when necessary

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  7. Kit Samson says:

    I’ve always felt it incredibly valuable to allow students to bring their own interests and passions into their work in the classroom. In fact, I model that myself, and bring my personal background and hobbies and specialized knowledge into my teaching. It makes learning come alive, and certainly becomes more memorable to the class involved. (not to mention myself!) If I enjoy imparting my loves to the class then that comes across, and they enjoy it all the more too.

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  8. L says:

    We can allow student to use their interests and strengths in ways that will allow them to learn what they need to learn by providing more flexible learning opportunities.

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  9. Freddie Chan says:

    Provide lots of options.

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  10. Awesomepants937 says:

    Learning should be implemented into games, say typing programs helps but something like an online fast paced game inquiring communication would put the pressure on to type fast. A game like trading card game involving number subtractions and additions (“damage” dealt or “healed”). Scaling to meet different educational needs. Spelling, to play games with difficult dialogue in proper context to help understand meaning, thing you think about, you remember.

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    • Jesse Gr.8 says:

      I as a student would like to point out to you that most kids hate almost all educational computer games and many other non-internet but still educational games.

      I think if we were just allowed to change our projects in a way that fit our interests (im not saying not doing the work) we would enjoy school much more and get all of our work done unlike many students do

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  11. Greater Victoria Youth Orchestra Society says:

    What DO our students need to learn? In our view, they need to learn to become well-rounded, responsible, contributing adults in a caring society. The public education system should encourage this and equip them for it.

    The BC Education Plan is an attempt to bring the BC education system in line with the needs of the 21st century. While combining some of what has been done before with what looks like a restructuring of public education, it is a document full of rosy predictions of optimum educational results for all children in the province. It is good to see that the importance of self-reliance, critical thinking, etc. are still being valued; these are not new ideas and have been goals in a well-rounded educational system for many generations.

    It is worrisome however, that the required core learning will be narrowed to reading, writing and math skills when all children in the province should be provided with not only these core skills but also shown what it means to be part of the human community. This means being offered at least an acquaintance with the arts and music of their own and others’ cultures, a good framework of the social and political history that has given rise to those cultures, an awareness of how the natural world works (that the earth travels around the sun in one year, the life cycles and distributions of living things on the planet, etc.) and participation in organized sports activities (for good health and leadership training) that are not always available (for practical and financial reasons) outside a school setting.

    It is also of concern that the plan predicts that most learning will take place outside the classroom. By having fewer requirements, it maintains that students will have more time to plan and pursue their own interests with guidance from parents and teachers. Indeed the arts, sports, science and leadership are only mentioned once in the Plan and then only as examples of work students can gain credit for as out-of-class activities. Children of affluent families will always have an advantage of music lessons, art classes, and participation in sports activities. However, in today’s society of working parents and difficult financial times, these activities will simply not be available to many students if they are not offered at least a basic introduction to the subjects in their classrooms along with their peers.

    By the time of high-school graduation, when our children find themselves standing on the doorstep of the rest of their lives, they will need to understand the context of the times in which they live in order to pursue their interests – teacher, professional musician, long-distance trucker, journalist, computer programmer, hockey coach, furniture maker, civil servant or any other career for which a well-rounded education has encouraged them to follow their dreams.

    Unfortunately, the new BC Education Plan does not appear to offer a well-rounded education for every student in public school.

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    • Rob Slanina says:

      Great points! Thank you for sharing!

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    • Richard Ajabu says:

      “…the plan predicts that most learning will take place outside the classroom…”

      I raised some concerns related to flipped classroom scheduling here and here that might be of interest.

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  12. Michael says:

    Get rid of the FSAs and re-examine the curriculum so that there is the freedom and space to explore students’ interests and strengths in more depth.

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  13. Heather says:

    Perhaps(?) we need an education system that will help foster within our children, a passion/interest for the STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, math). A recent programme I watched on future job/career prospects suggested that only monies (and time) invested in a STEM-related college or university programme are likely to produce positive returns/outcomes for the student. This point is particularly important for students who will need to take-out large student loans to finance their post-secondary education. In terms of the ‘follow your passion/dreams’ philosophy, I myself would have loved to have majored in anthropology/archaeology when I was at university, but I realized that the job prospects simply were not there (my understanding being that jobs were research-grant dependent). So, I opted to major in commerce and economics (which has served me well in terms of employment and income), while simultaneously feeding my passion for anthropology/archaeology by treating myself to some of these classes as my required electives. This balanced approach worked really well for me. [PS: I know a kid who spent 4 years studying fine arts (he was talented) only to end-up in debt with no job; he ended-up moving back-in with his parents]

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  14. South Cowichan says:

    The only public secondary school in our semi-rural catchment area is self-paced. It uses a learning guide system. Pre-typed lessons in a duotang. Turns off even motivated learners. Totally reading, writing based. Outdated !No student engagement. Stagnant!!! But it is cheap to run.!!! No one cares that students leave with destroyed self esteem. Why does the ministry allow this to happen. Make school districts offer choices of programs in schools. There are no options at the school. Students have to leave to another community if they can not manage their own education. It filters out students who can not succeed.

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    • neil bryant says:

      yup. A failed experiment by all accounts. I know the school.

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    • kate says:

      I attended the school in question, and I have to say you’re well off base. Most of the classes I took were taught, not work-out-of-a-textbook. There was, however, no time to work on things “in class” – that was done on your own time, in other rooms.

      You’ve way oversimplified the system.

      The “pre-typed duotangsI attended the school in question, and I have to say you’re well off base. Most of the classes I took were taught, not work-out-of-a-textbook. There was, however, no time to work on things “in class” – that was done on your own time, in other rooms.

      You’ve way oversimplified the system.

      The taught portions of classes like social studies and English were done in small, round table seminars – often 4-5 students, sometimes more, sometimes less. This allowed for far more discussion and interaction than a traditional classroom.

      It sounds like you’ve overgeneralized a bad experience, to me. ” you talk about give a guideline as to the activities you must do- including attending seminars, discussions, lectures, group project outlines…

      The taught portions of classes like social studies and English were done in small, round table seminars – often 4-5 students, sometimes more, sometimes less. This allowed for far more discussion and interaction than a traditional classroom.

      It sounds like you’ve overgeneralized a bad experience.

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  15. Keven Elder says:

    As a superintendent it strikes me that whatever we can do to empower students to explore their interests and passions we should do, all day every day. That happens most naturally for children in kindergarten and the primary years, partly because that is the nature of children, but also because we have a strategic focus on play-based learning. Yet we have designed a system that somehow discourages playful and passionate learning for older children, particularly as they reach secondary schools. Yet that is changing. Secondary schools are becoming alive with passion and curiosity through the work of great teachers, both in traditional academic settings where improved pedagogy and uses of technology are bringing curriculum to life and in modern settings such as academies or interdisciplinary project-based programs that have cohorts of students working with teams of teachers (one example being the institute for global solutions at Claremont Secondary in Saanich). I, for one, am excited by the bcedplan and the opportunity that we have as citizens to shape the direction of public education in BC through this website. This is a glorious opportunity to shape change together and I encourage readers and contributors to continue with positive forward-looking engagement. I understand that there is a great deal of frustration for many people right now in relation to the challenges on the labour relations front, but I believe that we can respect and acknowledge those concerns (even as they play out dramatically in response to Bill 22) as we forge positive new directions. Students have choices, and at the secondary level they can shop for the best schools and programs. They will follow their passions and interests, so let’s make sure those experiences can be found in every neighbourhood public secondary school in BC. The good ideas in the bcedplan will move us closer to those ideals.

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    • Jody says:

      Please Please bring this new plan to Northern BC schools. This is not happening here. My child is far from being engaged in school. There is also little communication options for parents.

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  16. Kristen B says:

    Please watch this video about changing education paradigms. My daughter (14) was moved to tears when she saw it. In addition to believing that the teachers deserve increased wages, I do believe that the education system needs an overhaul, this video first came to my attention in a presentation done by one of my colleagues while completing my MA. I would like to share it because right now there is a willingness for the government and education system in BC to be open to suggestions, I would feel extremely thankful if this short video was seen and heard.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=6jZHNjc4Xk0#!

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    • Devon says:

      Very interesting commentary on US education. Thank you!

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  17. Steve Frankel says:

    Building the curriculum around interests. Re-vamping and re-designing the student IEPs. This would be especially sueful in grades 8-12 (our highest drop-out rates seem to be grades 9-11).

    We keep hearing our business, trades, other areas are experiencing a labour shortage. Making a variety of “hands” on courses and training would be beneficial.

    Designing our courses so they are worked into and relative to “real-life” experiences, training, jobs. This would require creativity on educators and the goevernments part. We keep taliking about “thinking out of the box”, but we are not there yet.

    Our Ministry still is pushing assessments, assessment assements.
    Well, that falls under the “old factory model” of education. We can say the same for the governments self indulgement importance placed on provincial exams; which is really a tool to “screen” kids out of the post secondary system. AKA;A term used; “Educational Darwinism”. Some of the best, most productive sucesses were kids who dropped out of the system, because they “did not fit”.

    I speak from experience, as ne of those kids.

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    • Heather says:

      I think the government should take a look at the German education system and its testing/screening and direction of children into educational programmes based on their natural competencies. For example, my husband, who spent much of his childhood in Germany, was a strong academic and scored high on his tests/FSA in about Grade 4 and was therefore directed into what was called ‘Gymnasium’ – a school whereby the path for students was expected to be university (he went-on to become a scientist). Other students, those whose academic test scores were quite low, were sent to a school which steered the kids towards a trade-style profession (my understanding is that future movement for these kids between the two streams was possible based on their performance). Anyhow, the end result, as I understand it, is that most kids come-out of the German school system on some form of a valued career path (which I assume translates to lower drop-out rates, less unemployment, less drug/alcohol use, fewer young people graduating highschool with no idea what to do with their life – i.e., “I NEED to take a year off to FIND MYSELF” – arrgghh -

      However, when I bring-up this idea (the ‘streaming’ approach) with my fellow Canadians, I hear the old argument – “But what if someone is just a late bloomer?” Well, it shouldn’t be a problem if individuals can move between streams based on demonstrated performance (my son recently did just this when he was able to move-up to a more challenging spelling group by working harder and proving himself worthy). Also, I ask whether we should simply abandon this highly-succesful approach (which will benefit the vast majority of our children) simply because there might be the odd ‘late bloomer’ who ends-up with the short-end of the stick? I would say definitely NOT! Also, for those who worry about their child being streamed into the ‘TRADES’ (shhhh ..) programme, I would suggest it is high time we drop the negative ‘stigma’ our parents’ generation so wrongly attached to the trades. Many trades people I know are doing as good as, if not better financially, than my husband and I are doing (with our fancy university degrees). In fact, in my neighbourhood, I know both a plumber and an exacavator/drain guy who live in a house with a sweeping ocean view, while my husband and I had to settle for a house in the same neighbourhood with no view. We often say that if we could do things over again, we may very well have gone into the trades, and we would definitely support our children doing that.

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      • Heather says:

        PS:

        The fact that so many highschool students graduate school today only to say: “I need to go FIND myself” suggests to me that too many children are leaving the BC school system feeling LOST .. it’s time to take action – chop, chop

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      • Rob Slanina says:

        Great points, Heather! Separating students based on propensities, academic interest, and based on achievement is really something that our system would be able to support…much more feasible than the ‘flexibility and freedom for each individual’ approach.

        …and I agree concerning the stigma related to trades. Trades work is fantastic. I’ve been an academic for as long as I can remember, but recently switched over to trades…it pays well, provides good exercise, and it usually produces something more tangible than a lot of other professions that deal mostly with paperwork…getting to see what one has accomplished is very rewarding.

        …that said, I definitely do not regret the academic path that I took through life…my own life experience validates the value of both streams…

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        • Heather says:

          Thanks Rob. How great that you made the switch to the trades; I haven’t ruled-out doing this myself. I also know a man who worked at a bank for years (as a mortgage specialist) and then one day, he decided that he wanted a complete change of pace. He loved gardening, so he decided to establish his own gardening business. Within about 1.5 years, he was so busy (so much in demand), that he was able to in fact ‘fire’ his clients if they stepped out-of-line (e.g., didn’t pay their bill promptly). He told us that he makes more money now (as a gardener) than he ever did as a banker, and he is now able to take his family to Hawaii every winter.

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  18. kerdem says:

    I wish to express my concern and frustration with the government’s decision to enact legislation that will seriously erode the quality of education that is already suffering in this province. I am a kindergarten teacher at Keating Elementary in Saanich School District. I see the impact of the underfunding of education on a daily basis at our school, particularly in the area of providing service to students with special needs. Three years ago I taught Learning Assistance as part of the Student Services team. At the time, three teachers shared the Learning Assistance and Integration Support position, with a total staffing point time of 1.7. This year we have one full-time teacher at a 1.0 point time. This is a 40% reduction in service, despite no reduction in student needs. This teacher faces an overwhelming case load, daunting amounts of paperwork, and the difficult task of rationing our inadequate human resources.
    Students who require assessments such as Psycho-Educational testing in order to receive the help they need face multi-year wait lists. Counselling services are so limited at the elementary level in our district that we only had a counsellor once a week at our school until the end of January. Many students who require ongoing assistance no longer have any counselling support. Librarians, Speech and Language Pathologists, Occupational therapists, Physiotherapists, and ESL teachers have all been reduced to staffing levels that prevent these professionals from being able to do their jobs properly.
    Many of our classes at Keating, particularly at the intermediate level, are very large with diverse learning, behavioural, and emotional needs. My colleagues face the daily reality that they simply cannot meet the needs of their students. As a kindergarten teacher, I have the privilege of working with children at the beginning of their educational career. Teaching these children is a joy; however it is distressing to realize that those who encounter learning difficulties or other special needs face a long wait before receiving any kind of support.
    I am proud to be a teacher, and I am privileged to work with an outstanding staff at our school. We all wish to do the very best at our jobs and to provide the optimal learning environment for our students, but this is becoming more and more difficult to accomplish, and this is stressful, demoralizing, and heartbreaking for us.
    I urge this government to reconsider its draconian legislation that strips teacher rights and perpetuates this unhealthy learning environment for our students. By ending the cuts and reinvesting in our education system, this government would not only improve the working conditions of teachers, but the learning conditions of our children.
    I believe the children of British Columbia are worth a lot more than net zero. I beg this government to invest in education, invest in our children, and invest in our future.
    Sincerely,
    Dr. Lisa Gartrell Yeo

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  19. kerdem says:

    Smaller class sizes.

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  20. victoria says:

    I believe this to be true, however, we set up children to have unrealistic ideals about themselves. While its good to chase passions, and use that for children to engage in the school work and define their independence, managing expectations and reality has to folded into the process. We arent all going to have the dream job, or dream salary. A sense of purpose is at the heart of the passion. Purpose begets responsibiity – and we all could use a dose of that.

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  21. Madeleine says:

    I wanted to share a resource with you. Bill Gates has published a list of books that he recommends for school reform:

    http://www.thegatesnotes.com/education-bookshelf?WT.mc_id=3_6_2012_bookshelf_tw&WT.tsrc=Twitter

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    • Richard Ajabu says:

      Thanks, Madeleine :-)

      In the same spirit of sharing, I just came across this short video called “ The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us” that I hope everyone will enjoy and consider (thanks to the authors of this blog post and this blog post for leading me to that video).

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      • Richard Ajabu says:

        If you found that video interesting, Gordon left a comment with further information here.

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    • Devon says:

      Definitely worth investigating although most target the US system. We do need to be careful when comparing the US education system with the Canadian system. They have a very different system and consistently perform much lower internationally than Canada (side note: BC performs slightly higher than the Canadian average among provinces). This is why there is such a push for reform in the US right now. We need to be looking to the top countries in education such as Finland, Korea and Shanghai – China for direction, not those struggling far below where we are today. Think sports: if you’re looking for a good coach, you don’t go to someone not even competing at the same level. You want someone better than you. That being said, we can learn from watching the fall out of some of the initiatives in the states.

      Country Rankings
      http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/54/12/46643496.pdf

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  22. Jonathan says:

    Inquiry, inquiry, inquiry. I think that if we had fewer content outcomes and focused on critical thinking and research outcomes we would be less able to have fill in blank and multiple choice tests. If teachers and students are clear about the learning outcomes then teachers can help students meet those thinking outcomes through multiple paths. Summative assessment would have to look different.

    For example in my History 12 class I used an inquiry approach to the outcome which was to identify the significance of key developments of World War II. Once we had decided what significance meant and what made a development “key” students were given free reign to focus on an aspect that was of interest to them. Guided by the process of developing a strong inquiry question and taught research and evaluation of source skills, students could show me what they learned about the learning outcome in a way they chose. Some wrote the essay, others used tumblr, some prezi, others presented orally.

    Ultimately I took one outcome and crafted a student centred project that was based in thinking within a certain subject area. What I didn’t do is give the test that asked Which events were the key events in WWII. I felt the inquiry approach is more authentic than memorising key events. On reflection students felt more engaged too and wished more of their grade 12 classes had inquiry approaches in them. Too much of grade 12 is “getting through” the text for the traditional final exam. Often this approach is defended with the “we’re preparing them for university or the real world.”

    The other aspect of inquiry is that it encourages collaboration. Students used each other to refine their questions and give and receive feedback during the production of their projects. We don’t learn content for a big test in the real world. I think school should give students the tools to be inquisitive, collaborative, self directed, problem solvers. Rarely do we learn things by ourselves in isolation outside of school. The coverage approach to school stifles creativity and lowers engagement. Students aren’t in a state of Flow – see CEAs What Did You Do in School Today? for a Canadian perspective on engagement in schools.

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  23. friedemann says:

    If a teacher can see that “Mikey” is a better mechanic than they are at say learning a second language student / then maybe allow more flexibility for the students to go towards what interests them. in taking “similar” subjects rather being “forced to take something like calculus.
    This focused approach will have students staying in longer and learning something that they will use.

    Still don’t know what to do with my Trig. and Algebra in real life situations. Or French, which has served me no purpose.

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    • Rob Slanina says:

      If a student has an interest like mechanics, they’re more likely to be able to endure other subjects as well. Kids that drop out tend not to have classes like that…and if they do, they have personality conflicts with the teacher.

      As for being able to practically apply trig and algebra…I’d wager that you use algebra more often than you recognize, and that even if you don’t practically apply trigonometry, it is good that you have learned it because it allows your brain/mind to have deeper dimensions for analysis. A lot of mathematics was actually engineered based on the visions of philosophers and how they saw the connections between practical elements of the world (Cartesian mathematics is actually quite fascinating when you learn how Rene Descartes developed it and the big shift in context that came with it all…wonderful).
      …so just because you don’t use trig, or even algebra(which I find hard to believe), doesn’t mean that you aren’t a better thinker for having learned them.

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  24. Gordon says:

    As Colleen mentioned earlier, learning schemes such as Kieran Egan’s would be worth a review in the schools that are piloting his ideas. Becoming an expert is something has huge potential to integrate and apply skill sets that motivate you. Many students lose track of why they are enduring school when it does not have much meaning or engagement for them. Have them integrate their learning into real world creative contexts, ideas, products or services that they find personally meaningful and find a challenge. Engage with the outside world not just the world of school – we tend to want to use schools to warehouse students during their formative years as it is convenient. Experts are created through practice – lots of it when it motivates, sustains and inspires ever higher levels and nuances of learning. Use the curriculum major learning outcomes to have presentations or demonstrations of learning in a project format presented to peers, teachers and interested community members as evidence of learning. Such presentations could be as unique as the interests and expertise of the students from arts performances to engineering type projects. The sophistication and expectations for such presentations of learning would increase over the years of schooling. Schools need to be places to synthesize and apply learning not just places of transmission of information…as technology increases the capacity to do that outside of school.

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  25. Allison Weick says:

    What if it were possible for students to give teachers constructive feedback? I know a few teachers who actively get their students to write comments to them at he end of the year that they will not look at until they are done all the grading. They tell the students to overview the course, what was hard to learn, what was easy, and ask for feed back on anything that could help the course. I know it would be very hard to instate provincially, but would it help to generate a student teacher relationship based on mutual respect?

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    • Richard Ajabu says:

      Constructive feedback is essential for all learners, and we are all learners.

      You may be interested in some of these related comments:

      1. Imagine this…
      2. Value the work of students
      3. Disruptive Technology is a Good Thing
      4. 360 Degree Evaluations
      5. More on 360 Degree Evaluations
      6. Online communication, collaboration & decision-making tools
      7. Misc links

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    • Richard Ajabu says:

      Here is another related thread:

      8. More re online communication, collaboration & decision making tools

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    • Richard Ajabu says:

      I was just looking over the free Kahn Academy website (awesome!) and came across something that looks similar to what I described in my “Imagine this…” comment (Item 1 above). Check out this graphic in the section titled, “Your stats, instantly”, about halfway down this webpage and you’ll see what I mean.

      The Open Source movement is BOTH an excellent SOURCE of free online communication/collaboration/decision-making tools AND an excellent EXAMPLE of the world changing synergy that can be achieved when such online communication/collaboration/decision-making tools and strategies are leveraged and embraced. In fact, I can’t think of a better example of collaborative learning.

      Online communication/collaboration/decision-making tools and strategies need to be leveraged as a tool within our education system (and healthcare system, and government system, etc) AND explicitly taught within our education system.

      If you are interested, there is a link to a related short animated video here.

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      • Richard Ajabu says:

        Here is a Twitter thread regarding Khan Academy and here is a link to a related critical comment from this website thanks to an @bcedplan reply on that Twitter thread.

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      • Richard Ajabu says:

        A Grade 10 student left this comment regarding aspects of my “Imagine this…” posting.

        What do you think?

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        • Heather says:

          Wow – Dustin is obviously a very bright kid – perhaps a future Steve Jobs or Bill Gates of the world!

          My only concern is that some of Dustin’s comments seem overly ‘peer oriented’ to me. In a book titled: “Hold onto Your Kids” (Gordon Neufeld and Gabor Mate) the dangers of our children becoming too peer oriented are discussed (is an interesting read – yet rather repetitive). Anyhow, since reading this book, my husband and I have made a deliberate effort to ensure that our children spend a more balanced amount of time with their peers (other children) and with adults (parents and grandparents). For example, since our kids spend five days a week at school (time spent mainly interacting with their peers), we reserve Sundays as ‘family-only’ time (e.g., hikes, bicycle rides, canoe trips with Mom, Dad and grandparents only). We try to confine playdates and team sports to weeknights and Saturdays. I think this approach has resulted in us having a pretty solid bond with our kids (and I hope that this will translate into them coming to us for advice and direction, rather than to their peers, when they become faced with some pretty serious decisions one day (e.g., whether to try drugs, etc.)

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  26. Daragh says:

    One thing I have done this year teaching my grade five class that has been incredibly successful, is allowing students to choose how they will demonstrate their learning in a final summative assignment. This was very successful for all my students last term in Language Arts (Reading Component) and Science.

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    • Moderator Virginia says:

      Hi Daragh, thanks for sharing how you approached assessment. Can you give a few examples of ways the students chose to demonstrate their learning? Did you find that students were more engaged in their learning? And perhaps more interested in each other’s work as well?

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    • Rob Slanina says:

      How do you standardize such assessments? I mean, if one child decides to demonstrate their learning via a book report, another via an oral presentation, and another by way of an interpretive dance, or by writing a poem about it…how can these varied demonstrations lead to a comparable assessment where we can identify that Johnny knows the material as well as Sally does?

      If Sally is really good at writing book reports, does she miss out on the opportunity to learn to demonstrate her knowledge orally? If Billy can speak well about the subject, is it satisfactory to have him demonstrate his learning that way? or is it important that he’s able to write as well?

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      • Devon says:

        You and the student have to know exactly what you are assessing for that assignment. For example, if I’m assessing oral skills, I need an oral presentation. However, if I’m assessing content knowledge, you can demonstrate that to me through written or oral medium (or many other options). I will still assess all the proscribed learning outcomes throughout the course but not, necessarily, at the same time.

        There is a lot of research on this right now and the catch word in education is “assessment for learning.” This website gives a quick overview: http://annedavies.com/

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        • Rob Slanina says:

          Thanks for your reply,
          I’m sort of familiar with assessment for learning. It seems to be either complicated or simple, depending on the description. In the simple cases, it seems like obvious things that teachers already do: eg. be aware of each student’s progress and address that on an individual level by engaging the student as the primary actor in the effort to improve.

          …it seems like a complex description and prescription for simply being aware and pro-active. It doesn’t seem to be an actual form of ‘assessment’ in the objective sense as it is merely a means of engaging between the student and teacher. It seems largely subjective, which I think is great…

          …I guess I presume that subjective assessment and personal attention based on that assessment is the norm…and that objective/measurable/statistical/relative assessments are important ways to gauge the accuracy and efficacy of the more subjective approach.

          Does that make sense? Assessment of learning allows us to set relative benchmarks, while assessment for learning helps us to relatively(individually) pursue those benchmarks.

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          • Devon says:

            It does make sense and I agree with much of what you say. To link to the initial conversation though, the transparent learning objectives promoted by ‘assessment for learning’ allow assignment (and instruction) differentiation. You can standardize Daragh’s method of assessment by knowing exactly what you assessing and not mixing other factors in. For example, if I am looking at a student’s ability to identify different types of irony and their impact on audience, they can demonstrate that to me orally or written, using commercials, videos, short stories, poems, etc. as their ‘text.’

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            • Devon says:

              Jonathon lays this out beautifully in his above comment (near top).

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  27. Bill Thompson says:

    Tough question. Elementary and secondary are really about prepping the student for either the workforce or post secondary.
    I believe that pathways for learning have to allow children to develope their skills and discover their passions. I have found in the past that the better teachers can recognize what motivates a student and play to that.
    Perhaps forcing children to matriculate along specific paths doesn’t work. So instead identify those teachers that show a proven ability to recognize a child’s interests. A teacher that has a proven track record of using those interests to motivate their students and recognize them. Get them to pass along their skill set to the others that are simply filling time or can’t seem to connect.
    reward those that connect and get those that can’t out of the class room where they can do less damage.
    Those teachers(precious and few in my experience) that see a child as an individual with unique needs and drives are also the ones that seem to be more willing to let those kids work outside the box and develope ways to fullfill the criteria while at the same time enjoying themselves and using their strengths successfully.

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    • Rob Slanina says:

      Bill,
      Teaching is a Job…and it would be absolutely crazy to eliminate teachers based on personality conflicts.

      The sorts of teachers that you want to see are actually out there…but they are exceptional people…as in, they are exceptions to the standard.

      Think of what you’re saying and apply it to any other profession…imagine eliminating all the average carpenters out there and insisting that carpentry only be done by those exceptional few who have an above-average capacity for their tasks…eliminate the average one’s to minimize the damage they can do…

      It is simply not realistic to expect all teachers to be miracle workers.

      It’s a sad thing to think that teachers who can only do their job…those who perhaps can’t inspire kids with the charisma of Martin Luther King or something…that they’re viewed as ‘problematic’, or as the ones ‘causing damage’ to our students.

      …imagine how many parents are un-qualified with respect to this standard that you’re asking for.

      It’s important to remember that we’re talking about human beings when we make these generalizations and judgments about teachers. It is a thankless profession these days…

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      • Sylvia says:

        “…imagine how many parents are un-qualified with respect to this standard that you’re asking for.

        It’s important to remember that we’re talking about human beings when we make these generalizations and judgments about teachers. It is a thankless profession these days…”

        Rob, why do you think these happened?

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        • Moderator Chrysstena says:

          Please remember the questions here… in this question we are asking about student interests/passions and learning…

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      • Sylvia says:

        I mean, WHY, Rob,
        why the qualities of parents have been going down worse every turn
        and the qualities of teachers going down even more so worse?

        I think that we have to think about the all possible reasons, instead reacting at the current situation and resenting along, and crushing into our own doom and gloom.

        Why do those crucial things go worse from bad?

        Can we do something about it so that we together can set the adequate learning environment and the mindset for the young students and they’ll be better humans? Thus better parents and therefor better teachers…?

        I think the pre-post-secondary education needs to focus on developing the foundation for mature humanity. In this light, if agreed, the current education is far from the “real” education; it’s all about getting a good job and passing the competition. I think this task of getting a good job should come in the post-secondary education.

        While keep exposing students different occupational situations through job mentoring programs, the system can install G-13 as a bridging program. But keep the pre-post-ed exclusively for training humanity. Human cubs are perhaps the slowest kind to mature?

        Well I don’t know how clear this is, but just hope that good things happen…

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        • Rob Slanina says:

          It certainly has to do with values. Across society values and interests/passions have largely shifted more toward ‘things’ and sensations, and away from ‘visions’ and ‘ideals’.

          I prefer private education if only for the fact that politically-correct non-value systems are less of an obstacle in private schools.

          -Rob

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  28. Melanie says:

    Students need to be taught to develop their passions and how to pursue their special interests. This requires more individualized education…ie smaller class sizes and more one on one learning opportunities.

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    • Iris says:

      How do prov. exams & FSA’s fit this model? (And why can’t students have extra paper to write on in a prov. exam if their writing is larger than the ‘typical’ student?)

      Does it require smaller class sizes to individualize learning, or would you end up with groups that share their intrests helping each other? We are still forgetting that two heads are better than one, and this is critical in todays workforce.

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      • Melanie says:

        Individualizing is more feasible with smaller class size. Imagine the difference between 1 teacher and 32 compared to 1 teacher and 15 or even 20. If there was no instruction a teacher could give 10 minutes of one on one time to each student if they had 30 students. Now help them articulate their passions and interests. Teach them about goal setting and how to develop their passions in 10 minutes a day – if they get stuck or confused and need additional help…

        Sorry but the answer really is smaller class sizes. I know it is expensive but the question was how to help students pursue their interests and passions and this requires more individualized education and one on one time.

        You are entirely right about provincial exams. These have nothing to do with developing a passion for learning and everything to do with standardized learning and testing.

        It is a perfect example of how disconnected the rhetoric of the Ministry and the philosophy student centered learning are. Every IRP talks about different learning styles and different forms of assessment but when it comes down to it they don’t really care about students. They care about results.

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    • Rob Slanina says:

      What is it about pursuing personal interests that requires individualized education? I mean, whether someone is interested in culinary arts, or the sciences, or the humanities, or in trades…there is a basic foundation of knowledge that is required in order to do each of these…math, English, science, social studies, physical education…all important to each area of future citizenship…

      …could you give a concrete example of the sort of specialized/individualized education that you envision?

      …can you give an example of the aspects of the standard curriculum that would best be eliminated or modified in order to satisfy the scheduling requirements of this specialized attention on the individuality of students?

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      • Melanie says:

        There are different philosophies about what education should do. The foundation and basics that you talk about can be individualized to inspire students and make them passionate. For example, a student with fine motor skills difficulties may be discouraged from writing. But individualizing for this student allows for a scribe, maybe funding for a laptop, maybe an interview with the teacher to demonstrate understanding of a concept. Just because the student can’t write clearly or easily doesn’t mean they haven’t learned the math, science or social studies learning objective of that particular lesson.

        Individualizing means removing obstacles that frustrate students instead of demanding that they demonstrate their learning in rigid required ways. The learning objective is the standard – the way they demonstrate their learning is individualized.

        When students are constrained by rigid standards of showing learning it can damage their self concept (ie I am stupid, I can’t), their self-esteem (ie I am no good and never will be because I am stupid and I can’t). It most certainly takes the passion out of learning and does not encourage them to pursue their special interests.

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        • Rob Slanina says:

          Thanks for your reply, Melanie.

          I don’t find your arguments very compelling though. A child without fine motor skills needs to develop fine motor skills. Part of being versatile with one’s knowledge includes one’s ability to apply that knowledge in a variety of ways. It’s been said that knowledge is useless unless it can be shared…and a part of the requirements of various current assessments is that being able to demonstrate knowledge in written form, orally, or digitally, or however else, is a part of knowing something well enough that the knowledge is practical, and connectable/transferrable to a broad range of other areas.

          Concerning things like self-esteem, that is not achieved via crutches like computers and special exceptions based on inabilities. If anything, those things can be just as discouraging. It’s not as though wheel-chairs give paralyzed children higher self-esteem…it is still evident that they have a difficulty in areas where others do not. Self-esteem comes from within.

          If self-esteem and self-concepts are the main concern, those can be addressed within the ‘rigid constraints’ of the current curriculum.
          How, you may ask? Firstly, by encouraging children to achieve things that are difficult to achieve…by pushing them to develop fine motor skills, because they CAN. Secondly, by doing away with the taboo that failure is a bad thing. It’s not bad to make mistakes or to have a hard time with something…those are normal things in life and they don’t have to be crippling to self-esteem. If you fail at something (even if you fail a grade) it can be a boost to esteem if one is able to RECOVER from it. That’s the important thing…eliminating failure doesn’t allow for that.

          No matter how hard we try, we cannot alter reality so that adversity, difficulty and failure can be avoided. We can however, foster good attitudes towards the challenges of life while maintaining high standards in education that can be considered standards of achievement for everyone.

          Anyone who has ever overcome self-esteem issues knows that such issues are not overcome by others changing, or by the environment changing…recovery is prompted by inner change.

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  29. Allison Weick says:

    To provide students with the best opportunities to learn in a welcome environment you need to provide extra curricular activities. I graduated 3 years ago, and while I take advantage of my extracurricular options as a post-secondary student I miss the availability of learning to play an instrument in a group, attending school performances and dances, using lunch time to work on an art project, raising money through a thirty hour fast for Aids Patients, auditing our school’s environmental footprint, and going on field trips. While schools do need funding for these activities, the truth of the matter is that none of these activities would be possible without the help of teachers.

    Teachers are the chaperons, the cheering squad, the conductors, the donaters, the audience, the organizers. They were our counselors when we wanted advice, or just someone to share our feelings with. They listened to our excuses for forgotten homework, and bent extensions so we could get by, they respected us and we respected them.

    To be able to teach thirty children, discipline thirty children, and babysit thirty children at the same time is something I could not do, but I respect and admire those who can. They have a huge responsibility to educate the next generation, and the number of hours they work is in no way equaled to the pay. Because of the immense gift my teachers gave me in education and extra curricular activities I will gladly pay my taxes to ensure that they can teach others the same way.

    It would have been impossible for me to pursue my interests in high school without the support of my teachers who let me go early to volunteer, donated money when I had an awesome new volunteer project, or stayed late to watch my strings class perform.

    You want to allow students to use their interests and strengths in ways that will allow them to learn what they need to learn? Pay the teachers more! Pay the teachers for the extra hours they put in, and maybe then each club that any student dreams of will be created and run,maybe then the teachers will think they have the time to take the class outdoors to learn biology, and maybe then each kid who dreams of playing the violin, or writing poetry, or being a chemist will have the support they need to learn more about the career they want.

    The solution to providing the best education is simple: pay the educators!

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    • Moderator Mike Moderator Mike says:

      Allison, did your extracurricular experiences influence your path in school and out of school? And do you think we should formalize these informal experiences so they count for academic credit? Anyone else have comments on this?

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      • Rob Slanina says:

        What are the arguments for why they should be formalized so they count for academic credit?

        They’re already formalized in the sense that they are good supplements to a resume or to other sorts of applications. If we give school credits for them, they would either become requirements for graduation(not fair, given how impossible it would be to standardize extra-curricular activity in terms of availability and in terms of meeting requirements FOR credit) or they would be potential ways of avoiding the work required to meet the current credit-requirements for graduation (e.g. getting credit for playing guitar, or for playing hockey, instead of learning science or social studies).

        The academic merit of many extra-curricular activities is questionable at best. Often, with volounteer experiences for charity organizations what one learns is hard to discern from indoctrination…and even if one is not merely being indoctrinated, the extent of how one is educated is rather minimal, as volounteer experiences generally do not entail a great deal of responsibility…

        I think the only exception to this would perhaps be the provision of credit for things like sports…though I’ve not met any students in my life who were passionate about hockey, but not interested in going to P.E. class.

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      • Allison Weick says:

        Hello Mike
        I guess my answer to your question is both yes and no. My extra curricular experiences influenced me to be involved in my community, to try to make changes that will make the world a better place, as cliche as it sounds. However I would say that I chose a career path completely opposite to the extra curricular art activities I did.

        I would say a vehement no to formalizing extracurricular activities. They are extra curricular for a reason. If they are formalized then students resent them, and loose respect for the opportunities being provided too them.

        I have to say that I think there is way too much focus being put on academic credit in education. Really, being able to pass a course in high school does not mean anything, it just shows you know to hand assignments in on time and are good a writing tests. All the activities I did in high school I was involved in because I wanted to be, not because of any extra credit I got.

        The only way to get students to learn what they need to is to get them to decide to learn. That takes respect. Let students review their own curriculum. It would teach them a lot about governance and burocracy.

        There is a lot to be said for hands on work too. Dissections work better than diagrams, and titrations are so much easier to understand when you see the solution turning pink, instead of reading that litmus paper turns red with acidity.

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  30. Heather says:

    Well, I have seen first-hand while volunteering at my children’s elementary school that some children have absolutely no interest in sitting still, listening and learning (using the traditional classroom model). I wonder if these kids (and their classmates) might be better served by being moved into a classroom/school whereby instruction is provided using a much more active/physical approach.

    I’m not sure what this model would look like; however, perhaps one could look at some models currently being used at ‘boys-only’ schools (I am making an assumption here that models used at these schools have been designed to provide the attending male students a physically more active learning experience).

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    • Rob Slanina says:

      I think this is a good idea IF there comes a point where such an approach eventually results in the development of the capacity to sit still and listen as per the standards of the traditional model.

      If that’s not an ultimate end that such a means would aim to achieve, then it would seem to be little more than indulgence, and an avoidance of addressing problematic behaviour.

      I’d hate to be raising a generation of young men who were only capable of understanding their female counterparts within the context of physically active experiences.

      It’s challenging, because the children that you’ve mentioned are in fact quite disruptive, and often it is an injustice to interested learners to keep them in the same classrooms…

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      • Heather says:

        Thanks Rob; your comment gives me more to think about – nothing is as easy as it first seems.

        Thanks also for making me laugh (the part where you say: “I’d hate to be raising a generation of young men who were only capable of understanding their female counterparts within the context of physically active experiences”) … that was hilarious :)

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        • Rob Slanina says:

          Glad you enjoyed the subtle joke there, Heather.

          It does have a serious side too though…
          I used to have a toy when I was younger…and the batteries would run out…but if I shook it, it would work a little longer.

          Without the background, someone could have seen me shake the toy and they could have concluded that movement made the toy work better…and it would be terribly misleading.
          I believe that it is similarly the case with young boys…
          Sure, they may perform better when their curriculum involves more physical activity…but that doesn’t necessarily mean that more physical activity is the right solution. Surely there are better ways to get them ‘charged’.

          It’s not as though young boys today are so physiologically different from their predecessors who WERE able to sit still in class and who WERE actually more successful than their female counterparts…

          …many factors to consider…

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          • Heather says:

            Thanks Rob .. very interesting points you make. I recall though that the boys who couldn’t sit still and behave (back in the 1970s when I was a young girl in school) were just sent to sit outside in the hallway, or sent to the principal’s office, rather than being allowed to stay in the classroom and disrupt the learning of other children. These are the types of boys who I think might benefit from being sent to a special school with a more customized educational program (particlarly where the child suffers from some form of compulsive-behaviour disorder – but I am certainly no expert in the areas of education and/or mental health).

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            • Rob Slanina says:

              In the 70s (and the 80s/90s when I was in school), yes, disruptive kids were sent out of the classroom. However, that was an important part of learning. It was a demonstration of acceptable social boundaries and the consequences for crossing those boundaries. Disrupters were removed from the class.

              However, at any given time, there was rarely more than one student out in the hallway…and students with repeated issues would have their desks moved into the hallway (isolation often enabled them to focus better).

              Now, with consequences like these removed, the whole class suffers, not only because disruptive children are endured ad nauseum, but because they miss out on the lessons concerning social/behavioural boundaries and the expectations that go along with particular settings.

              These socialization experiences are critical to helping young children to overcome their impulsiveness.

              I know lots of kids that spent a lot of time in the hallway through their school years, and they’ve still gone on to be quite successful…it’s not really harmful as it’s made out to be…

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              • Heather says:

                Thanks Rob. It was interesting to read your comment: “I know lots of kids that spent a lot of time in the hallway through their school years, and they’ve still gone on to be quite successful … it’s not really harmful as it’s made out to be”.

                I must admit that I have always been under the impression (perhaps falsely) that sending children to sit alone out in the hallway is harmful to their self-esteem, but the points you make certainly give me more to think about. Perhaps these kids do find themselves a bit embarassed (and licking their wounds) in the short-term, but emerge from the experience with more self-control (hence self-esteem) in the long-term.

                Great points you raise Rob – thanks :)

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              • Rob Slanina says:

                Hi Heather,
                I’m glad to be received so openly.

                In my own class growing up, my cousin and one of my best friends were the 2 kids in class who spent the most time in the hallway…and now they’ve both gone on to do different types of engineering… successful men, with wonderful families that are assets to their respective communities.

                One even married a teacher! So he couldn’t have been that traumatized! LOL

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  31. Colleen says:

    As a postsecondary librarian, I’m keenly interested in the skills of our incoming postsecondary students, and areas where I’m seeing increasing weakness are in individual problem solving and information research skills. Kieran Egan (SFU) is leading an interesting research project with at least one Langley School where students engage with a topic of exploration throughout their K-12 curriculum. While I don’t necessarily think that a student needs to engage with a single topic from grade 1 forward, it does raise interesting possibilities for fostering a curiosity about the world and love of learning and inquiry, as well as a sustained engagement with knowledge.

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