What the heck does that mean, anyway?
Saying that the “learner is always right” doesn’t mean that learners don’t make mistakes. It simply means that what the learner does tells us how effective our instruction is. When learners make mistakes this is a signal to us that we need to change something about what we’re doing so that we meet the learners’ needs.
Oftentimes when kids don’t do well at school we have a tendency to blame them. We say that they don’t work hard enough or that they’re not smart enough. The problem with this, of course, and particularly in the case of a student not being “smart enough,” is that it doesn’t really give us anywhere to go as instructors.
What if instead of “blaming” the learner we took responsibility, as instructional designers, for the learner’s poor performance? What if our approach was, “Hmmm, this lesson didn’t generate the student performance that I was expecting. How can I change this lesson?” And what if we didn’t stop improving on the lesson until we got the performance we were looking for from every learner?
I can hear some of you thinking, “Holy crap! That’s a lot of work!” And it probably is. And depending on the type of instruction we’re delivering it’s not always viable to iterate enough times to get every learner to the same level of mastery performance. But even if we don’t get every learner to that point, what if we still thought about it differently? If we thought, “Well, Johnny got to 90% of mastery on this lesson and if I had more time to spend I could get him to 100%?”
What kind of difference (if any) do you think this would make in the classroom? Do you think it would make for happier kids?
Sad Student image from http://www.missfarah.com