It seems so obvious to teach children in a way they can understand. Why teach them in a way they can’t understand? That seems non-sensical and self-defeating. Do we do it because we are trying to convert children into little clones of ourselves so they can fit into society?
If you work closely with teachers and really get to know them, you will recognize that the vast majority of teachers are trying to be student-centric. They have the best interest of their students at heart, and they’re doing the best they can to adapt their instruction to meet the needs of their students.
People are constantly struggling to understand how teachers can have the right intentions, but miss the mark so often. Since reading Karen Kilbane’s article, Cognitive vs. Behavioral Supports for Jeremy Wiggins and All Students, the answer has begun to crystallize for me. So many things make sense once we start to think about cognitive landscapes instead of focusing all of our attention on behaviors.
Most teachers have a cognitive landscape telling them it’s perfectly normal for certain populations of students to struggle, and there is little that can be done about it. After all, we have decades of experience and research data that says some children are simply born with poor spatial sense, and will never understand geometry in the same way that children with good spatial sense do.
Working within this cognitive landscape, instructing a student to try harder and pay closer attention is perfectly appropriate—and accusing a teacher of having bad intentions or making the wrong instructional decisions will only trigger a fight-or-flight response and achieve nothing.
The key is changing the teacher’s cognitive landscape so that he sees the situation differently. If he can see that a student is only struggling because of a lack of spatial sense, and if he understands there are cognitive adaptations that will enable the student to develop the necessary spatial sense, then the teacher will behave differently. It’s really that simple. And once the teacher sees this situation differently, he will start to see all other situations differently. That’s how we transform education.