7/365 What If We Considered What We Want Students to Believe?

A friend of mine, a scientist, was talking to me the other day about the beauty of the scientific method. “You do an experiment,” he said, “to find out what happens.”

The conversation was centering on the idea of not trying to find a specific thing, but trying to find something. I pointed out that any scientific experiment was trying to find a specific thing, the difference is that my way of thinking was upfront about what it was attempting to find. His was looking for something, but didn’t show it until it had been found.

After a break caused by classwork and assignments, I’m back to Eleanor Duckworth’s The Having of Wonderful Ideas. The latest chapter focuses on the beliefs we want to curate in our students and the implicity of such wants.

Duckworth identifies the following four tenets of beliefs:

photo (1)Most interesting is Duckworth’s assertion that we want to do/learn things because “it’s fun” is not the same as an assertion that learning should be fun.

Hitting home for me was Duckworth’s assertion that we want to play to all of the reasons for beliefs throughout anything we are teaching, but that three of the four fall away when it comes time for assessment due to ease of execution. Yes, we want you to be interested in something because it is fun, but we will assess you based on your understanding of the real world.

Duckworth outlines beliefs as being vested in:

  • The way things are.
  • It’s fun.
  • I-can.
  • People-can-help.

While most education may hold the attempt to help students believe in all four as their driving forces, Duckworth argues (and I agree) that we end up assessing student knowledge based on their understanding of “the way things are.”

For the first few years, I wanted students to investigate reading for all four of the reasons listed above, but my projects/tests bore remarkable witness to the importance of the first only.

Later, I made the love of reading and texts my goal for each year of teaching the others were supplemental and the reading and learning in the classroom were better.

It all makes me want to turn to teachers and ask them to look at their tests. Which of the four are you looking at in your assessments? If it’s the world as it is, are you preparing students to create a world as it should be?


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