Posted on 02/09/2012 at 02:40 PM by Global Reach

Reaching today’s students and engaging them in their learning is one of the most difficult challenges we face.  For our students to be College and Career Ready, we must recognize some of the characteristics that impact these students and their approach to learning.  The one common concern shared by educators and business leaders surrounds the apparent decline of the work ethic among young Americans.  How can we motivate our students to do the required work and memorize the material they need to know to pass the state tests?

Have you ever heard or said yourself:  “Kids today don’t read, and they don’t do homework.  They don’t proofread their papers and don’t ever use the spell-check options in word!”  “Young people today have no respect for authority.  They talk in class, they miss school or get into trouble and their parents call and complain or cover for them.”  Business leaders make comments like these:  “They don’t want to work weekends, or long hours.”  “There are more job hopping and attendance issues – and parents even calling in excuses for their kids when they don’t come to work!”  How can we impact these kinds of attitudes and values?

The truth is that it may not be that our students lack a work ethic or loyalty.  It may be that it looks different from our work ethic.    Rob Fried, a former teacher and school principal, is a keen observer of schools and author of three books on schooling in America.  In his most recent book, he describes how school is a kind of “game” for many students who are bored in classes and so give the adults only the minimum required to get a good grade, while craving opportunities to do more intellectually challenging or creative work. (“The Global Achievement Gap”, Tony Wagner, 2005)

I believe the significant difference in students today is that they want their work to be meaningful and relevant.  They want to be able to use the work they do in school in other areas of interest.  They want to be collaborative, work with other students and even teachers, to develop and create, to apply what they are learning to real world situations.  Completing a worksheet or answering the questions at the end of a chapter is busy work.  They don’t care if they do that or not.  They want work that is more challenging and meaningful and most of our students want to do it with others.

Researchers report NetGen students will refuse to read large amounts of text, whether it involves a long reading assignment or lengthy instructions.  In a study that altered instructions from a text-based step-by-step approach to one that used a graphic layout, refusals to do the assignment dropped and post-test scores increased. Students are increasingly impatient with the lecture style of learning and the reliance on textbooks for information and crave more class discussions…Students with an information-age mindset expect education to emphasize the learning process more than a canon of knowledge.  They want to be part of learning communities, with hubs and spokes of learners, rejecting the broadcast paradigm of television (or the note-taker in the lecture hall.) (“The Global Achievement Gap”, Tony Wagner, 2005)
“The Global Achievement Gap”, Tony Wagner, 2005
Reinventing The American High School for the 21st Century.  Position Paper, 1/2006.      

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