How We Learn – don’t Bribe or Beat – Ignite the Flame of Curiosity

Neither Children nor School Districts need the ‘Carrot or Stick’ Approach

In over 15 years of working with struggling students, I know one thing for sure – All children are natural born learners. Curiosity is wired into our DNA and consciousness. The old adage, ‘You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink’ is dead-on with children and education. You can’t beat education into a child and it’s very challenging to try to bribe them to learn as well.

Our current carrot and stick approach to education totally misses the point. Parents can give kids $5 for every A and ground them for every D, but this approach encourages cheating and grade grubbing, not learning. As every parent knows, positive reinforcement (bribes) may sometimes work. Punishment, especially if it is not a natural consequence, rarely changes behavior. read article»

I read hundreds of articles every month on many aspects of education and education reform. Most of what I read focuses on the glass being half empty with very little creative and practical insight into how to get the glass full. It’s a joy to come across someone like Vanessa Ralph, a USF biomedical science graduate and high school chemistry teacher, with real insight.

More on Vanessa later, but first…

Many children are returning to Common Core classrooms this year. While I believe every child is a unique individual, education does require some standardization to be effective and affordable, but we do not have to sacrifice individuality, nor create standardized children in the process.

Two-thirds of American Federation of Teachers’ delegates voted in support of the standards’ potential but called for them to be guidelines, not straightjackets. Our members also called for school officials to be held accountable for proper implementation, for teachers and parents to have real input in the process, and for a different and more meaningful accountability system for educators and students not based on testing every child every year. Finally, teachers supported a moratorium on the high-stakes consequences of Common Core-aligned assessments until, at the very least, the standards are properly implemented. read article»

As I see it, the biggest issues with Common Core right now are: it has become a cause celebre for divisive politics and a ‘pot of gold’ for businesses that want nothing more than to exploit changing tests and texts for profits. The only real hope for education reform is for parents and educators to align for ‘what works for every child?’ Is this even remotely possible, give that ‘our children, not the others are our main concern? This is exactly why we need an education system that is fair to all and is really about education and not politics or financial status.

Now, back to Vanessa –

Vanessa is spending her time hand drawing a chemistry textbook stylized for people who prefer to learn visually. She is implementing wisdom and insight that I employ day in and day out with multisensory learners – meet them where they learn best, or as I like to say – sync the learning to the student.

It’s chock-full of illustrations that help reiterate the point in a way that will make sense,” she said. “The problem with textbooks is they explain a concept over five or six pages of really small text that can be broken down into a sentence and an image. read article»

Vanessa offers us a real example of how educators and parents can rally around what we now know, through neuroscience and cognitive development, about the learning process – it’s not about the right carrot or an effective stick, it’s about – what does each child need to light and fan their unique flame of curiosity.