Resistance to Learning

While doing my required reading for my PID course, I came across a quote from Brooksfield in Chapter 16 that read, “People will generally resist activities for which they see no justification. If the learning that students are asked to undertake seems to have no purpose or connection to their own interests and concerns, they’ll probably resist it.”  I couldn’t agree more. Do you remember sitting in classes and thinking to yourself, “When in the world will I ever use this?!!” The fact is, we are all busy. Life is busy. Time is precious. No one has time to waste. My fellow teachers, we need to realize this while we are planning our curriculum!  Our students want to learn exactly what they need to know to succeed. They don’t want make-work-projects or a bunch of unnecessary reading assignments. The just want the goods and they want all their work to be worthwhile, so that one day, after all their schooling is done, they will be successfully, employed members of society.  As teachers, it needs to be our number one priority to get them there. If we aren’t helping them get the education and experience they need, then we can expect resistance.  Actually, we can count on it…except for maybe a few type A personalities who enjoy lots of reading and writing.

Resistance.jpgPhoto credit to:

I watched a TED talk video recently about studio schools (the link is below). A Studio School is a small school of teenagers who are taught mainly through practical projects. They used timetables, like we do in real business, and they were provided with personal coaches (in addition to teachers) to help them along the way. These schools are just being piloted right now, but if all goes well, they would be publicly funded and run independently at no extra cost to the students. There would be no selection process and the students would achieve academic qualifications and a route to university. In the video, Mr. Mulgan said, this idea is “turning education on its head”! What a different way of doing school. I can think of several of my current students who would have really benefited from a high school environment like this. In fact, I would have benefited from it too!

In the studio school, the students “work by learning and learn by working”. What a fantastic idea! Mr. Mulgan’s team tested their prototype and the results spoke for themselves. Mr. Mulgan said (about the test group of teenagers), “They found it much more motivational, much more exciting than traditional education. And perhaps most important of all, two years later when the exam results came through, the pupils who had been put on these field trials who were in the lowest performing groups had jumped right to the top — in fact, pretty much at the top decile of performance in terms of GCSE’s, which is the British marking system.” I don’t know about you, but as an Instructor these kind of results get my blood pumping! It’s exciting! Hitting the nail on the head on how to reach our teenagers is a success to be celebrated – and learned from! I believe these same principles apply to Adult Education. Whether our students are 18 or 50, they want to gain the experience they need to be successful. No added fluff – just the goods.

In my class, I would really like to adjust my curriculum to involve more time in the shop, as I believe adult learners would also benefit from more hands-on learning. I would like  to turn one component of my classroom theory into practical work. It’s just a small change, but it’s a start! We will see how it goes!

What about you? Have you made any changes to your curriculum to lower the student resistance struggle?

Brookfield, Stephen D. The Skillful Teacher: On Technique, Trust, and Responsiveness in the Classroom, 2015, p. 221. Jossey-Bass. Kindle Edition.

Mulgan, Geoff. Geoff Mulgan: A Short Intro to the Studio School produced by TEDGlobal 2011, Length 6:16, Filmed July 2011


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