Learning: The Power of Process & Performance

Learning any area or subject from phonics to science rests squarely on process and performance. A Latin expression “in medias res” captures the essence of the meaning of process and performance. Students need to be plunged into learning situations with process leading to performance. While talking about it does contribute somewhat to learning anything, doing it is the foundation for enhancing understanding and skill.

However, a resultant expectation regarding the learning associated with academic subjects is the acquisition of content knowledge. The classical question a parent may ask her child: What did you learn in school today? is a powerful statement that may have lost its provenance. We learn things all the time without spending much time dwelling on them. With academic subjects, the learning has to result in something that is important now and in the future.

Imagine learning about the universe and not understanding that the Earth rotates on its axis to produce a 24 hour-day while revolving or orbiting the Sun to produce a year. Capturing the meaning of key terms within a topic of study or course needs to be played out in situations that reinforce its essence. It’s similar to expecting students to be able to write without writing opportunities to experience the process of writing from investigating to pre-writing, drafting, revising, and editing.

Content Knowledge as a Capstone of Learning

When the philosopher and stateman, Sir Francis Bacon, wrote: knowledge itself is power, he intended to promote the idea that possessing knowledge was the basis for a person’s reputation and influence. So true then, as it is today. From an academic perspective, there is particular knowledge within any area or subject crucial for an understanding of it. The ability to possess that knowledge and share it is at the heart of learning. For a person, forget the age, to strive to continuously learn is a most admirable quality. For an older person it may be driven by an interest; for a young person, a student, it is a necessity for achievement. We learn how and what we are taught. This may be the time to revisit both ideas.

Finally, an important step in preparing our students to acquire important knowledge requires the clear and precise identification of what that knowledge is. This may be done in a universal manner or more realistically from a topical unit approach. Please note: Common Core provided the basis for performance standards with only a hint of content standards. We must be able to fill that void for our students to value knowledge through process and performance.

Dr. Bruce H. Crowder is a senior researcher for Educational Vistas, Inc. His work is primarily focused on creating pathways for deeper learning for all students through student performance and a dynamic curriculum replete with strategic teaching. Dr. Crowder may be reached at bcrowder@edvistas.com

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