Goal # 1 For Next Year
I'm going to begin a series of posts that highlight my goals for next year. The main focus of my instruction next year is going to be to...
Never tell a student the correct answer
My job description is not to guarantee all students get the answer right. My job description is to provide an education, and I'm going to do it through providing a learning experience. Learning experiences MUST have failure built into them, otherwise they are not learning experiences.
If getting the right answer is all that's important to a student, then why not just get the right answer by asking a teacher? It's the most efficient means to an end. The problem is that it has nothing to do with learning information, simply collecting it and storing it until you can "spend" it on a test.
In a mathematics classroom, instead of asking me if it's the right answer, they should use what they already know to develop a way to check if it's the right answer. Why not just use the concept you're studying to verify it's the correct answer. How about you experiment with a few other similar situations and see if in fact it is the correct answer? Did the Greeks have someone to ask the all important, "Did I set this up right?"
As teachers we should turn this question on it's head more, and ask kids "Did I set this up right?" and "Is this the right answer?". Too many teachers respond by saying, "Let me look and see and I'll tell you." I would say, "Why don't you compare and discuss with a classmate, or use something you already know to verify it? Let me know what you come up with." Math should be as much the investigation, verification, and generalization(can I get any more "-ations" in here?) as it is about getting the right answer. It's a shame that the only thing we ever assess is getting the right answer.
If the goal is learning, we need to allow our kids to fail sometimes...that's what learning is. I could ask a rocket scientist for the answers to a 100 question rocket science test and get them all right, but that doesn't mean I'm ready to build a rocket.