Sunday, January 29, 2006

Habits of Mind?

Are we developing the habits of mind that students need for college (and beyond)? According to College Knowledge:
Although many high schools do strive to challenge students to engage at deeper levels, the structure of the curriculum and the emphasis on simply completing required courses creates the wrong mentality. Students enter college expecting assignments and tests with clear right and wrong answers that do not require much interpretation or even much thinking. When interpretation is required, they often assume that any kind of interpretation will be acceptable and are surprised and even offended when they are told that they must apply certain disciplinary rules of thinking and analysis in order for their argument to be considered worthwhile or correct. In other words, they have completed the introduction to the discipline without developing the habits of mind necessary to engage fully in the study and understanding of that discipline. (p. 75-76)

Once again, I have to ask, how do we know that college-bound students (which is not everybody, let's not forget) who graduate from AHS have truly learned anything and are prepared for the rigors of college? I think if you asked many of our students, their response would be something along the lines of "I completed all the courses required for graduation and my GPA is 3.4 - so, yes, I've done what I needed to do." But have they? Is our school structured in a way that we can really tell whether they have learned the "habits of mind" - as well as the content - that they truly need to be successful in college and beyond? My concern is that our very structure actually interferes with this goal - that the emphasis on required courses, GPA and class rank doesn't actually support deeper learning, it undermines it. If this is correct, what can we do to change this? If it's incorrect, please show me how it accomplishes this goal.

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