One of my favorite authors in the field of education is Phil Schlechty. A quote of his that I’ve loved for years is this: “Students don’t learn from work students don’t do.”
Indeed! And it doesn't much matter whether the student is five years old, 35 years old, or 65 years old. Learning tasks that are crafted to put students to thinking critically and grappling with messy problems are the ones that activate the curiosity and engagement of students.
Schlechty is spot on in his assertion as there is a definite correlation between effort and learning. The persons investing the most effort are the ones who learn the most. If the teacher is doing most of the work, then the teacher is doing most of the learning. If the students are doing most of the work, then they're the ones doing most of the learning (Hmmm... That doesn't sound much like a lot of the college classes I took).
By the way, the same dynamic exists across the learning spectrum. It doesn't matter whether we're trying to get students to learn math, poetry analysis, historical implications, how to play an instrument, the use of sound decision-making processes, or how to rebuild a tractor. Students only learn what we have prescribed when they are the ones putting their hands/minds to the tasks.
The trickiest part for those of us who presume to teach students powerful and important stuff is to create learning tasks that actually engage the students enough to garner their effort. After only 35 years in the education business, I’m still struggling to get better at that process.
But today, I intend to be a little better at it than I was yesterday…