But Who Listens to Students?

Bored students in a lecture

Several recent studies showed that students aren’t retaining information in school. Who would’ve guessed? Oh, that’s right–the students themselves.
Image: Shutterstock

Several months ago, blogger Grant Wiggins posted a piece about a study done by his daughter, high school learning coach and former teacher Alexis Wiggins. Her study was simple: for two school days, she had put herself in the shoes of a student at her school, shadowing an actual student through their day. She went to every class, did every assignment, took every test with that student.

Her findings were utterly unsurprising to anyone with a clear memory of their days in school. A day spent in enforced sitting is exhausting. Students who spend 90% of their time passively receiving information with no choice in the subject matter do not absorb it well. Teachers are often condescending and outright rude, discouraging students from asking questions they need to ask.

Her study only mirrored what high school students have been saying all along. Ask any junior how their school could be improved, and those are the answers they will give you. More involvement. Less contempt.

Another teacher doing a similar study was shocked to learn how boring his school was from the student side of the desk, a school he took much pride in. He understood easily that it was difficult to learn in an environment where you struggled to stay awake, but he had never realized that the common methods of teaching employed by him and his fellow staff offered his students so little engagement.

If a student had presented these findings, in a balanced, constructively critical report, not one of these educators would have taken it seriously. Similar to problematic experiments like thin people wearing fat suits to “understand” what it’s like to be fat in public, or wearing a hijab as a costume to see if racism is real in their communities, this study only adds a “trustworthy” voice to a statement already coming from thousands…thousands who should have been listened to on their own.

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