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Are they Students or are they Learners?

Art they being students or learners?

Flickr photo by Taro416

A while back I spent the day working with a group of about 150 educators who’d been brought together by one of their state’s regional service centers. I find it a particularly cruel thing to do, forcing a group of adults to spend six-hours paying attention to one person. So on this day, I decided to break things up a bit — and model an element of one of my ongoing messages, teaching in order to make yourself obsolete. I decided to by facilitating a discussion activity that I’d seen once and recently read about, but can’t recall the name of right now. The activity involved a continually shifting panel of experts from the audience, who could only answer questions, and members of the audience, who could only ask questions. I inserted my two cents worth only when I simply couldn’t help myself.

Out of that conversation came a goodly and completely predictable amount of push back. It was along the lines of, “I agree with everything that David is saying, and believe that this is where we need to be, but…” The “buts” were the typical barriers to retooling classrooms, including, but not limited to government testing, government testing, and government testing. But another area of concern that surfaced more than once was a reluctance to trust their students to take advantage of the tools and opportunities for learning that I was suggesting and demonstrating. There is a belief that students are lazy, intrinsically unmotivated, and willing only to use these empowering tools for shortcuts.

I’ve been noodling over this, trying to figure out the nature of this reluctance that the teachers and principals were referring to and the nature of their perceptions. Equally important is coming up with a language to describe the problem. What surfaced in my own thinking was that educators continue to think of their charges as students, rather than thinking of them as learners.

I spend a lot of time, these days, talking and writing about how we are asking teachers to redefine what it means to be a teacher — and, in all fairness, how difficult that is. I try to present myself as a master learner, suggesting that part of what teachers should be, today, is constant and resourceful learners — master learners. But perhaps a significant part of this exercise in redefinition should involve our students — an explicit remolding of perceptions of these youngsters, in order to fully shift the relationship between student and teacher, learner and master learner.

So let me see if I can distinguish between these notions of students and learners.

 

Students
Learners
Relationship with educators
Students are employees, expected to obediently follow instructions.
Learners are citizens with a vested interest in the learning society.
Relationship with other “Students”
Students are competitors
Learners are collaborators
Motivation
Obligation: Students are culturally obliged to work for the teacher & for compensation (below)
Responsibility: Learners are motivated by an understood and realized “value” in their work, especially when it is valuable to others.
Compensation
Institution-defined grades and gateways to college (another institution) and a good job (another institution)
A sense of ongoing accomplishment that is not delivered but earned, and not symbolic but tangible and valuable — an investment.
Mode of Operation
Compliant, group-disciplined, objective-oriented, and trainable
Persevering, self-disciplined, group-, goal-and product-oriented, resourceful, and learning in order to produce and accomplish rather than simply achieving learning.
Why?
Compelled
Curious
Equipped
..with packaged knowledge and tools for recording packaged knowledge — prescribed and paced learning
..with tools for exploring a networked variety of content, experimenting with that content, and discovering, concluding, and constructing knowledge — self-invented learning
Assessment
Measuring what has been learned.
Measuring what the learner can do with what has been learned.

One of the problems that I struggled with, as I was writing and ordering these qualities was that I wanted to put assessment, for the student, at the top of the list — and assessment, for the learner, at the bottom. For the student, assessment is king, in very much the same way that quality control is such a critical part of the manufacturing processes. But assessment, for learners, is much less obvious, and at the same time, it is much more integral to the learning. Assessment for classrooms of learners is the enormous amounts of qualitative data that is collected by the teacher (and other students) on a minute-by-minute bases.

Assessment is also, and this is what I find most interesting, not a “right” or a “wrong” — a check (?) or an X. It is a simple self-asked question, “Did that work?”

 

Comments

  • http://concretekax.blogspot.com/ Mike Kaechele

    I really like how you laid this out and your added comment about assessment is dead-on. Perhaps the first step to changing teachers pedagogy is getting them to understand this difference.

    Who wouldn’t want to “teach” learners instead of just students. And I think this comes back to expectations of the leader. How we treat children is how they will perceive themselves.

    • http://2cents.davidwarlick.com David Warlick

      I think that it is a good question, you ask. “Wh wouldn’t want to ‘teach’ learners instead of just students?” I suspect that there are still teachers and schools who prefer compliance in their students, students learn what they are taught so that they can answer questions on a test. It’s what schooling is about in today’s highly institutional environment. Instead of school as a preparation for life, school should become the beginning of life.

      • http://Plaman.com Jeff Plaman

        David, I’m struggling with this question a great deal as I try to be an effective technology integrator. Turns out of course that what we really need is not more technology but a shift in orders of the learning process. There is a palpable gap between those who see children as the learners you’ve described and those who see them as students. I found this chart very useful in summarizing the differences. Thank you.
        I am beginning to wonder if a lot of the resistance from the student oriented teachers stems from the fact that this is what they signed up for. They like the institution where roles are defined, there is a timetable to follow, and bells to remind us to do so. They want to be the center of attention in their classroom and go to the textbook for answers. This is comfortable for them, this is how they see the job. For them, this type of teaching followed followed by a definitive assessment fits into a nice, tidy box. Learning (role you’ve defined) is outside that box and will be resisted to preserve what’s comfortable.
        This gap is not age, gender, or experienced based. We cant simply wait for turnover with the next generation of Master Learners, because many of them are not. So, how do we help student oriented teachers transition to become Master Learners when many have little interest in doing so?

      • Caitlin Dennis

        I have, more times that I would like to admit, found myself surrounded by teachers who are completely fine settling for ‘compliance.’ Having their students learn the assigned material and produce this information onto a given assessment. However, as I begin this journey into the world of becoming a teacher, I cannot settle for compliance. I want my students to leave my classroom as ‘learners,’ ready to go out and continue learning and absorbing as much as possibly.
        I love that definition of a learner’s assessment: Measuring what the learner can do with what has been learned. The children that come into our classroom should be able to take everything they have learned while with us and see what they can do with it- more than just bubble in A, B, C or D.

  • Scott Merrick

    Spot-on, as usual, David. I gather that though NCLB and it’s obsession with standardized assessment has not been formally renewed, nor has it been supplanted with less dictatorial doctrine. When will calmer and more masterful voices prevail? Where’s the alternative proposal that incorporates leading thought along the lines you propose? Shall we craft it?

    • http://2cents.davidwarlick.com David Warlick

      I think that we’ve been crafting it — many of us. But we’re not tying it all together. We’re not bringing it back around in circle. There are a lot of really smart people suggesting really smart things that are oh so compelling. But we aren’t finishing the story, because we’re just telling it to each other rather than producing the finished show.

      Exceptions, of course, are schools that have been given permission to reinvent schooling. But who, among the powers that be, are paying attention to them?

      I don’t know. Do we need to get louder?

  • Lisa Linn

    Right on the money! (Again!) I have been trying to make the point that most educators have forgotten how real learning looks and feels for some time -to no avail. We have taken the play and curiosity out of our classroom practice; putting it back in relevant ways would make all of the difference. But we’ll keep throwing band-aids at the carotid bleed-out that testing has made of education. So students and their teachers who know better, will continue to pay the price.

  • Jude

    David, I shared this post with my favorite administrators. Today’s xkcd cartoon fits perfectly with this concept: http://xkcd.com/803/

  • http://bestlatin.blogspot.com/ Laura Gibbs

    Wow, what a FANTASTIC chart. I’ve linked to the blog post and copied the chart over at Fireside Learning Ning to see if it will prompt some discussion there. Thank you for finding such a clear and compelling way to help us try to see what it will take to get the learning back into school! :-)

    http://firesidelearning.ning.com/forum/topics/from-dave-warlick-are-they

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  • http://bestlatin.blogspot.com/ Laura Gibbs

    Ha ha, I guess I should have said curiosity-provoking rather than compelling in that bad sense of compulsion, eh? :-)

  • http://gasstationwithoutpumps.wordpress.com gasstationwithoutpumps

    Of course everyone wants to teach learners, as that is a much easier task. Unfortunately, there are limits to how much we can change the students we are given to work with.

    I’ve posted a related reflection at
    http://gasstationwithoutpumps.wordpress.com/2010/10/03/just-scoring-points/

    • http://2cents.davidwarlick.com David Warlick

      I guess that the readers of this blog would prefer learners. But I’m not sure that is universal. I guess I need to add a column to suggest the qualities of learners that might get in the way of the teaching that continues to happen in some schools.

  • http://facilitatinga1to1.blogspot.com/ Tess Ausman

    I love this post! I already shared it with my colleagues. Our county is launching a 1 to 1 laptop initiative for 6th and 7th grade students next month and as we conduct professional development workshops we are really focused on the learner, not the student. I will be using your chart next month to provoke discussion.

  • http://pesdisland.blogspot.com/ Noreen Strehlow

    We are constantly trying to stay on the cutting edge while still playing by all the rules. We need to get test scores up but somehow do it at the top of the digital Bloom’s scale. We go to some awful old-school workshops but manage to expand our personal learning communities via Twitter, Facebook, and Virtual Worlds. We are told to use interactive whiteboards but also put up ridiculous chart paper all over the walls to prove we are addressing specific objectives. What other job makes you keep one foot in the past while pushing you into the future?

    I have always wanted the kids who come into my room to get to the point where they were self-sufficient. Then my job becomes one of opening the next door for them and showing them what is just beyond. It should be their job to walk through and not mine to push them. Well, maybe a righteous nudge…

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  • http://overloadjunct.wordpress.com/ Shelly

    Exactly my belief. However, I do get some resistance from my students who do not want to be active participants. I have linked this post in my blog, http://overloadjunct.wordpress.com/.
    We do need to find ways to change student expectations and get them to “revise” how they view their roles and the roles of educators.

    • http://2cents.davidwarlick.com David Warlick

      I know what you mean about the students, Shelly. They have been well trained. It’s what school is about, or has been about — teaching them how to be students, instead of teaching them how to be learners. What’s ironic, is that it’s the good students, who make the best grades, who are going to be less prepared for a time that demands that you be able to learn, unlearn, and relearn — if our predictions are correct.

      I’d love for someone, somehow, to do some sort of study to check the success of people today, who were or were not successful students.

      Someone told me a while back about a kid in their classes, when they were young, who was a complete loser, bad grades, failed one or more grades, a cut-up who was always getting into trouble. Probably ADHD. He’s now a very well-liked, well-respected, and innovating chief of police of that town.

      • Ken

        This table really demonstrates what it is to be a good teacher. If we want our students to be learners then we have to take the risk to be learners along with them. Trust is the key here as we have to first trust ourselves that we can be learners and then trust our students to embrace this as well. What we know about trust is that if we give trust its a reciprocal arrangement. We all may have worked in a trust deficit environment where the inefficiencies manifest themselves in over communication, or lack of motivation. So I would add trust to the table and under student – low trust and under learner – high trust.

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  • http://www.wellc.co Winning Education

    Your post is spot on in my opinion. Changing one’s vantage point can lead to dramatically different results. Winning Education is an in-home tutoring service in Montgomery County, MD and we subscribe to your idea of a learner. Our immediate goal is to help raise our students grades, but our long term goal is to teach our clients how to be independent thinkers and learners. Our slogan is always learning always growing. Thank you for this post!

    J.F. Lesoine

  • http://www.brucetutes.com/blog Bruce Knox

    Is it that the assessment is assessing what the have studied (as dictated by teachers forced to teach for standardised tests) rather than what the students have learned? I would suggest these are often two very different things. Maybe in the process of studying the material set by the teacher the student is learning that the best way to succeed in the class is to do what they are told, not be inquisitive, etc. What they have studied is different to what they have learned. Not sure if this is worth 2 cents, but I’ll throw it in anyway.

    Bruce

  • http://www.transleadership.wordpress.com Tony Baldasaro

    David,
    Great distinction between the two – you are spot on. I recall as a young PhD student, I wanted to study and write about the use of coercion in schools to get students to get their work done, go to class, follow the rules, etc. My underlying premise was, and still is, that school is simply a series of coercive activities that students are obligated to do. She would have none of it and vehemently denied that that was the case.

    Now, I am no longer a PhD student, instead intent on learning that which I am passionate about (which does shift over time). That is not a knock against a PhD or those that have earned one, but for me it was too limiting. My hope is that we can make that shift in k-12 that will allow students to explore passions and learn because of for personal gain and not compliance within a system.

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  • Carrie Shanahan

    Thanks for a thought-provoking framework. I was interested in your reflection on assessment at the end. It reminded me that someone told me when I was a brand new baby teacher that instruction (the work done by the learner in your writing) and assessment, in an ideal situation, should be pretty indistinguishable from each other. It seems like we often overlook the gap between what the kids learned and what the teacher intends to measure. I wonder if it would be helpful to start teaching the kids a vocabulary for describing what they know and why it matters.

  • paul

    Thanks for these thoughts. I reposted your chart on my classroom blogs for my high school Seniors and asked them to write some comments & thoughts. I look forward to reading their ideas

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  • PaulGVSU

    I thought this was a great post. In particular I liked your break-down of the difference between ‘Students’ and ‘Learners’. I have to agree with you that we as educators have a responsibility in helping to facilitate this shift. It actually excites me to view my students this way. The trick will now be as someone mentioned above getting those kids who aren’t ready to be active participants see the benefit of becoming a life long learner.

  • Amy Billig

    What a great chart! It really shows clearly where we are and where we want to be with respect to teaching and learning. Given the current entrenchment in teaching students and all the motivation, compensation, mode of operation and why factors being what is currently “real” and important to kids, parents, and most educators, how can we prioritize this list to work on changing one aspect/perspective at a time? At a gentler pace, the changes might be easier to swallow and longer lasting. Which of these factors do you think must change first to give meaning to changing the others?

  • Karen Allen

    I really believe that some teachers blame assessment or gov’t testing as a reason they can’t teach outside the box. Teaching is about learning what is going to help our students achieve success. I love the chart that you attached; I will definitely share it with my colleagues. Maybe sharing this chart with them will help them realize the importance of knowing that students are learners and in order for them to become master learners; they need to apply what they learned.

  • Melissa

    Excellent post David. Reading this makes me think that as an instructor, I would rather empower learners than teach students. The question then becomes, what cultural changes can be made in the school to ensure that everyone from Administrators to students, understand the importance of empowering learners, and not ‘teaching’ students.

  • Donna

    As an administrator caught up in the data/assessment/AYP jungle of NCLB, your chart nailed where we need to be. I am working with my faculty on building their understanding of 21st Century skills, technology integration, and Universal Design for Learning. It is a difficult process for two central reasons – one is related to government testing and the continued restraints from that focus, but the other one is very connected to how we continue to define student and teacher roles and responsibilties. To create civic minded, problem solving, engaged citizens we must re-define the roles of teachers and students, which will begin to transform our learning environments. Your chart is an excellent springboard to begin the conversation.

  • Donna

    Asan adminstrator caught up in the NCLB jungle of assessments, data and AYP I applaud this dialogue. I am working with my faculty in understanding and embracing the 21st Century skills framework, technology integration, and the Universal Design for Learning. It is a slow process because of two central issues. The first one is directly related to the continued emphasis on accountability only measured through state testing. The second however is very much related to our beliefs about the roles of teachers and students. Your chart represents a framework from which to begin what I think is a much needed and very healthy discussion if we are going to meet the needs of today’s students.

  • http://essaychampions.com essay_writing

    Thank you for the post, it is once again reminding us of what we (should?) have been told when educating ourselves to start a teaching career. The chart is marvellous, as for some of us it is still difficult to understand that we need to raise people, able to learn and adjust in rapidly changing environment in theory, and the chart is another essential method of delivering information to the others – visualization:)
    Indeed, in a modern school teacher is equal with students, acting like a supervisor but not mentor, gently correcting mistakes and generously applauding to success.

  • http://www.quisitivity.org Gerald Aungst

    David, I’ve been in administration for almost a year now, and I couldn’t help but read your post from that perspective. I love your idea of the label “master learner.” What happens if we take your same chart and replace the column headers with “Teachers” and “Master Learners” in place of the respective Students and Learners? All of a sudden we see things from an administrator perspective, and I find myself wrestling every day with seeing the teachers I work with as Master Learners while still carrying the responsibility of monitoring and coordinating my program as a whole.

    I said for years while I was still a teacher that I would not be a manager but a leader when I became an administrator. Easier said than done, and I think a large part of that is the exact same perspective shift you are describing for teachers about their students. I wonder if this would work better as a bottom-up transformation (teachers get the shift first and it trickles up into admin), or as a top-down, where administrators change how they see their teachers first.

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  • http://redefineschool.wordpress.com monika hardy

    excellent chart and thinking. i love it. absolutely love it.

    i’m going to encourage that we stick to your premise though David … we are all learners… i think we need fewer teachers – more sophisticated or master learners.
    so the asking which you’d rather “teach”… i’d push – which you’d rather learn along side. i can’t remember a time i didn’t learn along side.

    about those not successful in school, Sir Ken’s the element, Daniel Coyle’s the talent code, both chocked full. Michael Ellsberg is crafting a book now – interviewing drop outs that are extremely successful.

    James Bach is one – so is Noam Kostucki – both of which have helped us come up with some verbiage describing a process of learning how to learn (notice, dream, connect, do)
    we’re calling it detox, and we’re thinking – if this process is practiced with any chosen topic – it will become 2nd nature. and all learners will be set with what we believe is the #1 skill – knowing what to do when you don’t know what to do.
    turns out the drop outs don’t really need it.. it’s the ones who are compliant and trainable… the ones that make the grade – that need the most help in learning how to learn.

    Jim Folkestad at CSU and i have been working on this, and now an activity system mapping of master learner vs learner in order to monitor progress/authentic learning.

    i met Jim the day you were in Loveland, CO almost a year ago. (so – blaming most of this on you.) would love to share it with you at some point. i think you will like it.

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  • http://sextontabithaedm310.blogspot.com/ Tabitha Sexton

    Hi, I am from Dr. Strange’s EDM310 class and I am posting as part of an assignment. I was just looking at your blog and trying to decide which one to comment on and I came across this one, and I am sure glad I did. This is something that we are educators and future educators should never forget.
    I really liked your chart and the way that you broke it down. I agree that we should always think of our students as learners and ourselves as master learners. Your chart really helped to bring your words to life. Thanks again for sharing your thoughts.

  • Stacey

    As a literacy coach, one of my greatest challenges is getting teachers to see themselves as learners. To admit that they don’t know it all, or that maybe our understanding of teaching and learning is constantly changing, makes teachers feel vulnerable. My teachers are always asking if this will “show up on my evaluation.” Sounds just like kids asking if this will “be on the test.” Clearly we have all ingrained the learning=grade mentality. I am hoping your awesome chart will help me open up conversations about both teaching and learning. Thanks for always being so thought-provoking!

    • http://2cents.davidwarlick.com David Warlick

      Stacey,

      It seems to me that the trick is to see a know-it-all mentalitiy as vulnerable and the “master learner” as the quality of empowerment.

  • http://www.toptenskills.com John Andrew Williams

    This is excellently portraying yet another drawback to the educational system.
    As a life coach focusing on developing essential life skills with young adults, I apprecciate the differentiation of learner and student. I believe learners will ultimately succeed in their educational careers and their lives overall.

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  • Nancy Boyle

    I spent some time with your “student/learner” chart and shared it with colleagues who have been having a particularly hard time with innovation and change, I think due to, as you write, “a reluctance to trust their students to take advantage of the tools and opportunities for learning… [and]a belief that their students are lazy and will only use these empowerments for shortcuts.” These teachers see students as looking for a quick way out, which is perhaps more reflective of growing up in this digital age than actual laziness. Thanks for putting this chart together so clearly!

  • http://koobits.com/ rachel

    check this free software that lets you organize, read and manage all your ebooks. (http://koobits.com/)

    furthermore, it’s really useful for students and teachers alike. it’s learning with technology and as your post emphasizes, allows students to think more creatively and more out-of-the-box.

  • http://www.honeyfern.org honeyfern.org

    Coming a bit late to the party, but I think it is safe to say that even if teachers want learners not students (and that’s a big “if”), many don’t know how to teach learners. Saying that you want an intellectually curious learner is one thing but accomodating (and engaging) a gifted student in a gen ed classroom, or any student who wants to go beyond or go deeper when you are confronted with the realities of meeting AYP is quite another, especially in a multi-level class of 35. Many teachers and administrators these days bandy about the catch phrase “differentiation” without knowing what it means at all.

    Individual classrooms can promote learners but they are still responsible for test scores which are now tied to their pay. It is a hard sell in these times. We need an entire overhaul of the mission of public school and a house cleaning of staff that are not on board.

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  • J

    In all the years that I have encountered this movement to demonize the word “student” in favor of the word “learner” I have to understand the point. The table you have provided looks to me to be an outline of your understanding of positive and negative traits in students, not anything about the nature of a student or a learner. They are interchangable words. I, for one, am proud to be both a student and a teacher and see now disrespect or dishonor in referring to those who study as students. “Student” is not a bad word. It really isn’t.

    • http://2cents.davidwarlick.com David Warlick

      J, thanks for your comment. I see how it appears that I am getting caught up in terminology, and I apologize. It is the images that I wish to distinguish. The tradition view is the student whose role it is to passively follow instructions, pay attention, memorize, and show mastery by answering questions. The learner image is that of a student who is a much more active, self-directed and responsible learner. To be clear, there have always been some active learning in the traditional classroom, and there are times when a more passive stance is required in the “modern” classroom.

      But the reason I think this distinction is important and needs to be made is described masterfully by Diana Laufenberg: in her TEDx talk, How to learn? From mistakes. The purpose of the classrooms I attended in the 1950s and ’60s was to prepare me for the next 35 years of my life. Certainly, I was expected to learn more along the way, but formal education had little to do with that. Today, when things changing so rapidly, schooling should be much (MUCH) more about preparing people to continue to learn, to be learners, to be learning literate.

  • http://waldenu.edu Lillian J

    I find the responses above all interesting on the matter of what makes a learner versus a student. In my opinion, a learner describes how involved a person is with an activity. Think about it, a student can sit there passively and appear to be learning, whereas, on the other hand, a learnwer will actively engage in the activity, thus learning or at least assimilating more of the information. Personally, i pefer the term “learner: over student because I always remind my students that they are responsibile for their own learning. I teach, they absorb and asimilate, and together , we make sense of the information being presented to them.

  • Fadia

    I just read your post about students v. learners. I think that we have to remember who shapes them into students rather than learners. As teachers, we are so tight on time that we spend most of it trying to get through everything on our list that we sometimes forget to stop and reflect on how our teaching practices affect our “learners.” Who wouldn’t want to encourage the learners in their classroom to investigate and create.

  • http://slfindl.wordpress.com/ Sondra Findley

    David – I found this article so intriguing! This is exactly where I think our classroom focus needs to go. “Teaching in order to make yourself obsolete” should be what every teacher strives to do in their classroom. Too many of us focus on our pupils as students rather than learners. I thought your chart was an incredible creation on how to explain the difference, and what our endeavor as educators should be – achieving a climate for learners! I’m curious as to what the last few months’ feedback has been on this post. Have you had more colleagues weigh in on the process? How do we get the “powers to be” at the state and federal level to assist us in changing the climate of our schools?

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  • Loretta

    Being a special education teacher, I have found that my students need very much to be learners not students. They need to learn skills to be life long learners. They need to be collaborators and work with other students. They need to “own” their own work and value what they have learned to build a sense of accomplishment. I really love the phrase,” learn in order to achieve, rather than achieving learning.” Learners need to be curious and assessment needs to be measured by creative examples and discovery of what abilities students have and not on what abilities students don’t have.

  • http://www.univphoenix.com/graduate/education/ Alex A

    Hi David,

    I found this article full of interesting questions. We all know that the answer to create learners is their environment. Because it is the environment that will lead a student to gain enough maturity to understand how to behave as a learner. Of course ‘master learner’ are important part of the environment, but to make a difference in the field of education, family environment and life experiences of the student are important to become a learner. Understanding the difference between the need of results and the personal accomplishment is an important step that can only be created by a favorable educational environment. One of the most favorable environment i found is at http://www.univphoenix.com

    Alex

  • http://ydeschool.org Jewish School

    This post is very interesting and does in fact raise a myriad of questions. I very much enjoyed reading it and all of the previous responses. Thanks for posting such intriguing material.

  • Heather Sawyer

    I believe that what decides whether a classroom contains students or learners is dependant on the expectations of the teacher. A teacher is the leader of the classroom, and therefore sets the expectations of their students. If a teacher believes that their students are learners, and treats them as such they will be more inclined to become learners over students.

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  • Bri Kilgallon

    I loved this blog because I think that making this distinction between learner and student is the key to reforming education. If teachers are able to accept and understand this, it can introduce new, innovative ways into the education system, one in particularly, is technology. Students want to learn, it is part of human nature to seek answers to questions. There are so many new tools and resources available to students that traditional method of teaching seems like it could hinder knowledge rather than encourage it. Students should be allowed to explore and find answers on their own; it will help the information stick better if the child is not forced to learn it. This is not to abandon traditional methods completely, but only to amplify them into new-age thinking.
    The quote, “I decided to break things up a bit — and model an element of one of my ongoing messages, teaching in order to make yourself obsolete” really stood out to me because I believe this coincides perfectly with the overall message of the blog. The teacher is not in the classroom as the one and only resource for information for students; there are a million ways to learn and the teacher should act as a guide to information instead of a strict instructor on knowledge. Teachers should encourage students to learn on their own and make mistakes so that they can find ways to solve problems and obtain knowledge on their own.
    At the end of the blog, you discuss the importance of assessment and the differences between students and learners in this area. This last paragraph concluded the message perfectly. When dealing with students, both the student and the teacher strive for a grade. The teacher wants to make sure the student knows the information he or she presented at the time of the test. The student wants to memorize, even if temporary, the information so that he or she does well on the test. This kind of relationships is summed up by the final assessment on the information. When it comes to the relationship between learners and “master learners” the process is about exploring and discovering an answer as opposed to being told it. Learners will feel less compelled to know things but more curious to find answers. This relationship is ideal for a creative, collaborative, and cooperative learning environment.

  • http://g5dragons.posterous.com/ Tony Potts

    I love this – just what I strive to ‘grow’ in my G5 students – thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  • Ron Jacobs

    Amen. As a retired military officer and now retired teacher/tech coordinator I couldn’t agree now. Since I retired the second time I have had the opportunity to substitute/guest lecture a couple of times. The ‘students’ do want to learn. On one occasion I was a guest in a 20th Century US History class that was discussing the 50′s. Since I was a college student/new AF Officer during that time frame I opened the floor to questions. The kids didnt want to leave and asked me if I could come back the next day. I then checked the web and found so many movies/interactive info about that era that I could have filled a two week session easily. The stuff is there, the kids are interested – the teachers just have to lead them.
    Last point-the last objective test I took was in 1953, all people cared about was wether or not I could do the job and apply the knowledge or info I had at hand.

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  • http://www.fetsystem.com Umar Khan

    I am an ESL teacher teaching in Pakistan, and I liked your students 0r teachers article.

  • Jeremy Dane

    That was a great article ! Students vs learners. I agree with the idea that forcing hundreds of adults to focus on one presentation for six hours. It often comes up during professional development that the strategies used for PD are not in line with effective teaching strategies. Teaching and learning are one in the same. Jeremy

  • http://twitter.com/lgully/status/70180982069800960/ Lori Gully (@lgully)

    Cool chart students vs learners by David Warlick http://davidwarlick.com/2cents/?p=2762

  • http://twitter.com/chrisludwig/status/70227795741118464/ Chris Ludwig (@chrisludwig)

    Reading "Are They Students or Are They Learners" http://t.co/3OwllLJ by @dwarlick feeling like my stds. are on track to be learners

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  • http://twitter.com/LisaThib1999/status/70270253732601856/ Lisa Thibodeaux (@LisaThib1999)

    Interesting comparison — are they "students" or are they "learners"?? http://davidwarlick.com/2cents/?p=2762 #ascd #ncte #tctela

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  • http://twitter.com/GSLMiddleSchool/status/70318115648569344/ Thor Kvande (@GSLMiddleSchool)

    Great discussion on the difference between students and learners. http://bit.ly/aG2ZVb

  • http://twitter.com/jEllenCollins/status/70339769284034560/ Julie Collins (@jEllenCollins)

    "students" vs "learners" – a handy conceptual dichotomy. I esp like the note on assessment at the bottom of the table http://bit.ly/9LwM4O

  • http://twitter.com/7HEAVEN11/status/70387795239247872/ Hari Haran (@7HEAVEN11)

    Into the last week of uni, I ask myself, were you a student or were you a learner… a wonderful table by David Warlick http://goo.gl/qOxZ

  • http://twitter.com/iliketoast42/status/70581310799876096/ Bob Follmuth (@iliketoast42)

    Are they Students or are they Learners? http://t.co/LTexYTK via @ottodestruct

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  • http://www.ncu.edu Jessica Johnson

    I really love this thinking. This is something that really needs to be done. If we are to make the biggest impact on teachers and students we need to take over this type of attitude an thinking. Being more positive is huge. This is some very good stuff. Thanks you so much.

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  • http://mindmovies2-review.blogspot.com/ Damien

    One of your commentators writes with passion on the subject of Learners v Students.
    ‘Exceptions, of course, are schools that have been given permission to reinvent schooling. But who, among the powers that be, are paying attention to them?
    I don’t know. Do we need to get louder?’
    Well, you know that generally you are only being heard among yourselves anyway. Non teachers are not hearing the message and are not even paying attention to the conversation.
    It’s a pity but I think you have to face the facts and move on.

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  • http://www.panocash.com shoes of 2011

    Now, I am no longer a PhD student, instead intent on learning that which I am passionate about (which does shift over time). That is not a knock against a PhD or those that have earned one, but for me it was too limiting.

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  • Jami

    Though all of life I have had one way of being taught; I never enjoyed it. I never knew what kind of student I was. The teachers always said I asked too many questions. After reading all of I realized I’m and always have been a learner. I always thought there were more than one side of learning or even every answer. Now more than ever I understand who I truely am and feel more comfortable knowing I wasn’t out of place in school it was just the teachers didn’t know how to teach a learner just a student

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  • Gautam Jain

    Hi David, this is the first time i am reading your blog i must say i am quite happy to see an individual who can differentiate between just studying and real learning. I would like to know about your opinion on the following block, Your comment will is highly valued.
    http://gautamjain2012.wordpress.com/2012/09/24/schools-students-need-to-thinknot-to-memorize-3/?preview=true&preview_id=12&preview_nonce=bd2438e39e

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  • Virginia

    Wow! I love the descriptors that you use in making the comparisons. I will definitely make use of your blog in the next Professional Development session at my campus. One of the many roadblocks that I witness is, that as teachers we, fear letting go. Shifting the responsibility for learning to the learner requires the ‘Master Learner’ to facilitate versus to controlling the learning. That is a task that will require patience and persistence.

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  • DismayedParent

    The table showing differences between students and learners, appears to me to address attitudes and beliefs of the TEACHERS, and has nothing to do with our CHILDREN, who have no agenda or bias in their schooling.
    I am sure you have heard this before, but the student/learner labels ring my moral B-S bell very loudly, and in my humble opinion are nothing more than the attempts of political commissars to indoctrinate society according to a set scheme that must be explained. This renders it invalid, and reprehensible in the sphere of our education system.

    • http://blog.idave.us/ David Warlick

      @DismayedParent, Thanks for your comment and for the oppotunity to further “explain.” In a world that enjoyed the perception of a certain/predictable future, a student agenda was irrelevant. However, in a world that is changing faster than we can effectively respond too, then our children (especially in the mid to upper grades) not only deserve to play a more active part in their learning, but an effectively adaptive education requires it. “What was good enough for your grandmother is NOT good enough for your children!”

      You accuse this writing to be the “attitudes and beliefs of the TEACHERS.” Well, sure! Teachers, it seems we have forgotten, are the professionals. More than half of them have earned graduate degrees (http://goo.gl/VAkvA).

      Your second paragraph tosses labels that you do not clearly describe, so it is difficult for me to respond. I will say that we (progressive thinking educators) are resisting immoral and politically motivated efforts toward modes of education that insure compliant students, when a rapidly changing and globalizing world requires graduates who are innovative, critical thinkers who are resourceful and relentless learners.

      Thanks again!

  • Sara McGue

    Successful learners is the way to push our “students” to becoming competitive out of high school. I really liked the layout of students or learners. As an educator leader I feel it is my responsibility to allow them to become active in their own education- if we want our public education to be first rate then as teachers we must reflect on our own actions.

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  • Dallan Wright

    I just put this short piece together along the same lines of this blog. I really enjoyed this.
    The Educational Disease:
    http://youtu.be/peA_EMNPfOM

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  • kimberly vaughan

    I FEEL AS THOUGH A STUDENT IS A COMPETITIVE MEMBER OF CLASSROOM I FEEL AS THOUGH A LEARNER IS SOMEONE WHO GETS IT ALL. AND THAT HAS A PASSION FOR KNOWLEDGE.

  • Kari Kelly

    I find this a fascinating thought. How interesting would it be to be able to begin this method of teaching in a kindergartner? To have him or her so curious about the world around them (as they were even a year earlier) that they sought answers themselves? As you mentioned in another post about a teacher from Raleigh who no longer felt the joy of teaching because of the hardships, paperwork, and testing that constantly seem to multiply, I get frustrated as well with “the system.” It doesn’t work, so why do we continue to use it? Are we so afraid of change that we have forgotten to place the student and our desire for them to become lifelong learners first?

  • Dominique

    It is ironic reading this blog. We quite often refer to the young children who enter the classroom as students. However, reading the blog in relations to 21st Century Classroom, students really should be referred to as learners.
    At present, educators are teaching students to think critically, and to be self taught while the educator is the facilitator, Even more, educators are differentiating instruction which causes the learning to become more student centered and done collaboratively among peers.
    I currently teach kindergarten and I teaching and modeling with them how to become life-long learners.

  • Edie Martin

    As a teacher of a course with heavy accountabilty attached to it, I often feel pressured to conform to the ‘They are students’ mentality. However, I truly wish for my classroom, and indeed my school, to fully embrace the ‘They are learners’ position.

    With the power of learning in the children’s hands and the teacher/administrator/system along as a guide, true growth is the inevitable result. It seems that if a teacher were able to construct authentic learning opportunities around a specifically designed set of standards, both the opportunity for true learning and the growth needed for assessment accountability would be met.

    Moreover, the culture and climate of the school, system, and community would be positively impacted due to the empowerment byproduct and personal ownership of success. Thank you for this enlightening avenue into learning!

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  • Sara Hoberman

    I want to thank you for this illuminating chart and a new way (for me at least) to look at the little people that populate my classroom. I think that very often in today’s schools, we teachers view them as “students” rather than “learners.” I know I have. This post has awakened me; it is clear to me that it is beneficial to all to understand them and treat them as “learners.”

    I also think this same concept can be extended to the whole school hierarchy; I have had principals and other administrators who have viewed the faculty as “students” (i.e. employees) rather than “learners” (i.e. collaborators). I think schools are communities and they all function better and benefit their members more if everyone is given the respect of being treated as a “learner.”

  • Sara Hoberman

    I want to thank you for this illuminating chart and a new way (for me
    at least) to look at the little people that populate my classroom. I
    think that very often in today’s schools, we teachers view them as
    “students” rather than “learners.” I know I have. This post has
    awakened me; it is clear to me that it is beneficial to all to
    understand them and treat them as “learners.”

    I also think this same concept can be extended to the whole school
    hierarchy; I have had principals and other administrators who have
    viewed the faculty as “students” (i.e. employees) rather than “learners”
    (i.e. collaborators). I think schools are communities and they all
    function better and benefit their members more if everyone is given the
    respect of being treated as a “learner.”

  • Marcus Patel

    That is an amazingly done chart. Its very important for teachers as well as students to understand the difference between just students and learners. You must always strive to be a learner and not just a student.If we are to make the biggest impact on teachers and students we need to take over this type of attitude an thinking. Being more positive is huge. This is some very good stuff. Thanks you so much. You can also use collaborative environements like http://www.educlassy.com

  • Shauna Connor

    Research has shown that the quality of teaching and learning is improved
    when students are active learners and are provided with opportunities to
    clarify, question, apply, and consolidate new knowledge. In order to achieve
    this, teachers provide opportunities for students to engage new material, while
    serving as guides to help them understand and apply information. They help
    “light the lamp” of student learning.

    Students and their learning needs are at the center of active learning.
    There are any number of teaching strategies that can be employed to actively
    engage students in the learning process, including group discussions, problem
    solving, case studies, role plays, journal writing, and structured learning
    groups. The benefits to using such activities are many. They include improved
    critical thinking skills, increased retention and transfer of new information,
    increased motivation, and improved interpersonal skills.

    • Becki E.

      Shauna, I couldn’t agree with you more. When kids stop memorizing the information and learn how to use the information they remember it. I teach technology education and many times in my class a student will finally “get” a concept from a math class. Something as simple as fraction suddenly makes sense when you apply it to a ruler. (We are talking high school kids). They understand it when it is being used instead of memorized.

  • Becki E.

    As a technology teacher I spend majority of my days sitting in the “back of the room”. So many times I have sat in meetings with other teachers and they are shocked at how well certain students perform in my room. The same student is found sleeping in other classrooms. I know I am lucky to teach an elective class which is half the battle for these students. They actually chose my class which means they have an interest in it already. I like to think I don’t teach my students what to think, but instead how to think and where to find the information they need for a problem in class. My students are very independent and this leads to their success in my room. They are constantly engaged.

  • Koray Okceci

    Teacher leaders have a lot to give and a lot to gain. The phrase you stated in the article “master learners” for teachers is so essential of the definition for teacher leadership in our century because schools develop cultures that promote and celebrate continuous learning for students only when teachers join the community of lifelong learners. In order to create communities of learners, teachers should model it first in class, then expect pupils to follow their teachers` path.Many researches show that there is a powerful relationship between learning and leading. If a teacher is not a lifelong learner, kids soon recognize that the message is ” do as we say, not as we do.”

  • Esther Martin

    The table showing the difference between learner and student is most interesting. When students become learners there us definitely a change in attitude and they do become collaborators with their teachers in digging up for information of the subject being taught. I witnessed this phenomenon occurring before me eyes in the classroom

  • Cordelia Polley

    I find the table to be a very enlightening depiction of how we as educators do in fact view the student and how in this changing time of Common Core State Standards, educators HAVE to begin to view the students more as how the table describes them as..LEARNERS. As I read the table I could see myself in my interactions with the students in my school as that of the STUDENT and rarely has the LEARNER. But, as I reflect on those same interactions, I wondered, if I had interacted with them more regularly as LEARNERS would we (student/teacher) have accomplished more during our day? Would they (students) have become a master learner in not only their daily interactions with educators, but also with the community in General? I agree, in order for students to become Master Learners, we as Educators, Parents, and Community Leaders have to be Master Learners first.

    Thank you….


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