Learning is what we Do

There's a pitch I'm starting to use with the adult learners in my class: "I'll provide whatever support you need to let you do something with a new skill or information to really learn it, but its up to you to do it."

Well, its not poetry.

But it's the best I can manage to get across to them that they have to use skills and information if they want to retain them.

Not all of them believe me. Some don't understand me: their narrative of "learning" as showing up for class, listening really hard, and taking a test is too deeply rooted for me to overcome with just a slogan.

But one learner believed me. The week before last she knew almost nothing about planets or stars or outer space. As a group, we read and talked through a three page handout. That didn't help much either. Still, she read it again, by herself, and asked questions.

Then she worked on a model of our solar system at home. She worked on another one in class. She looked around some at the NASA website. She asked more questions. She looked through a "coffee table" book on missions to the planets. She charted some characteristics of the planets. She wrote "real estate ads" for three planets. She wrote about the solar system, and then posted it in her blog. She asked more questions.

Through 5 or 6 classes, she spent at least an hour a day doing something or other with the information she was gathering about outer space.

Then, at last, we turned to a workbook. She challenged the solar system section of a pre-GED-prep workbook (reading level 7-9), and got everything right. The next day, she attempted several GED-prep questions (reading level 9-10) about space, and again got them right.

That wasn't the end, of course. We talked more today about comets and light-years and how scientists use indirect evidence to understand outer space. Some of that was new information, and I saw her struggle with it. But at least she had a foundation to build on.

She didn't want me to take a picture of her stuff at first. Maybe she thought it was childish or unprofessional. I don't think so. I'm proud of her, of how brave she was to draw and chart and write.

And I'm excited about everything we're going to do together tomorrow.

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