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How One Teacher Found 'Deprogramming' Kids Improved Their Learning

How One Teacher Found 'Deprogramming' Kids Improved Their Learning

When it comes to student learning, sometimes enjoying the process while keeping the end goal in mind can take some of the pressure off of children. Students who are less focused on grades and see their teachers as partners in learning perform better than those who are crushed under the weight of pressure to perform.

For Adam Holman, assistant principal at Murchison Middle School and former high school teacher in Texas, his best practice is to "deprogram" kids on how to do school, according to an article on KQED.org. 

"I felt I had to remove all the barriers I could on my end before I could ask my kids to meet me halfway,” Holman said.

The article said that first thing Holman did was "move to standards-based grading. He told his students to show him they’d learned the material, it didn’t matter how long it took them."

Holman found that his students "realized this made sense," the article said. He also found that "when he changed the grading policy, students worried about grades less and focused more on working together to understand the material."

“It turned my students into classmates and collaborators because I didn’t have a system in place to deny the collaboration,” Holman said.

According to the article, "his students stopped copying homework. There was no curve that guaranteed some kids would be at the bottom. Instead, the class moved at its regular pace, but if a student persisted at a topic until they could show they understood it, Holman would give them credit."

“It turned the kids on my side,” Holman said. “I was there to help them learn.”

Holman, the article said, didn't just change his grading policies. He also changed his teaching style "to focus on inquiry, good questions and independent discovery."

"Starting off, he knew juniors and seniors weren’t used to learning that way, so first he had to build trust with them so they’d understand why he was asking so much of them," the article said. "At the start of each class period Holman and his students did icebreakers and read and discussed articles about how human brains learn best. Holman knew he was asking students to be vulnerable with one another–to share their misperceptions about math and physics–and so he spent precious class time working to make sure students trusted one another and him."

"It wasn’t perfect and it didn’t turn my kids into all physics majors, but for the kids who were on the border, it made a difference,” Holman said. “I think the kids were just waiting to be let loose and to be treated like adults."

Read the full story and comment below. 

Article by Kassondra Granata, Education World Contributor

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