The driver and the passengers. Is school driver’s ed or passenger’s ed?

When traveling in a car, who tends to learn the routes better? The driver or the passengers? Who better internalizes the paths and roads and mental maps of the journey?

It’s an interesting metaphor for schools, isn’t it? If we say we want children to be and become deep learners who internalize the cognitive and social skills and knowledge to direct their own paths and journeys later, then how much are we willing to commit to letting them be the drivers more often?

While it’s certainly not always the case, I’ve found that subject-area organization of school – the traditional math, then English, then science classes for a little less than an hour each – tend to be driven by the teachers, and the student-learners are more the passengers.

If you want to test that assumption, then ask a K-12 student to describe to you what they will be doing and studying during an upcoming day or week of school. Then ask them who decided on that plan – that route.

Yet, in project-point-of-origin settings, where the learners launch projects based on their curiosities, interests, wonderings, and passions, the students tend to be in the drivers’ seats, and the teachers can become more like navigational passengers (not backseat drivers!) on the journey.

Who are you letting drive the learning? What’s your school’s balance among time for the teachers to drive and time for the students to drive? Whom do you say you want to engage in deep, powerful learning?

So, I can’t help but ask: Do we want school to be more like “Driver’s Ed” or “Passenger’s Ed?”

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Inspired by Krista Tippett’s interview with Dr. Adele Diamond.

Related posts on It’s About Learningsearch category: “Curiosity”

One thought on “The driver and the passengers. Is school driver’s ed or passenger’s ed?

  1. Enlightening metaphor! I whole heartedly agree!
    Have you experienced effective ways to map this learning across a year to ensure key areas are hit? In other words, how do we reconcile common core expectations with student voice and choice?

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