Passionate learning 青い目の熱血授業


This is the fourth in a series sharing thoughts and discoveries on experiences with MEXT's (Ministry of Education,Culture, Sports, Science and Technology: Japan) Super Science High School Project. So far we have talked about government officials, the principals and staff of the high schools, and the teachers. This article will take a look at the students.

One of the questions we ask in the first hour of the first class is, "Who wants to be a failure?", and we have never seen a student raise a hand. This simple, common truth is important on many levels. First, it reminds the students why they are in class, and it also opens each student's eyes and helps him/her realize that our job as teachers is to help every student be successful, and that success depends on his/her participation. People need to know the"rules" or methods to acquire it. We make clear what the studentswill learn, how we will teach them, what the student must do,and why they are learning what we are teaching them. With that framework in place we have seen remarkable results.

We have found the great majority of students need to know that we welcome and insist on questions, and the same is true with at least guesses in response to our questions. Most importantly, we continually stress that mistakes are not only normal, but essential to their learning. We want and expect them to make mistakes so we can immediately correct them, and show them the proper way so as to help them succeed. Mistakes also help the rest of the class learn. For example, in that first hour of the first class, we usually randomly select a student and ask the student to simply introduce him/her self. I demonstrate, then ask the student to try, telling the student and the class that there will be many mistakes. As soon as the student begins, I say "Stop!" and give him/her corrections on, say, foot placement and how to relax and ask the student to begin again. I continue this to illustrate the importance and productivity of mistakes, as everyone in the class is learning from the demo student. This results in the students' willingness to participate knowing they will improve which, in turn, builds confidence.

A student willing to take chances in learning continually builds confidence that builds a foundation for the student. We have found that by the end of our series five, 3-hour seminars, there has been a vast improvement in every student and usually the highschool teachers are astounded with the students' performance. Knowing there is support, help and direction, the student flourishes, learns, retains, and is able to adapt and apply the skills and information to his/her own unique style. They are able to use what they learn in the real world, making their performance better, and hopefully, better contributing to life. Isn't that what learning is all about?