the needs and wants of learning

I’d like to piggy back of Megan’s ideas with a bit of my own experience.  As she aptly pointed out from the text, “the work must be purposeful from the student’s point of view in order to properly focus attention and provide direction” (199).  While I agree with the nugget of this idea, in practice, it’s really what the instructor believes is purposeful for the student—which is where things can get hazy. Allow me to provide a personal example.

At the end of each unit writers take part in ‘real world days.’  The lesson usually begins with when writers exhaustively—pretty much near brain dead–reflect on their papers (What’s your favorite part; What did you find more challenging; What grade do you believe this piece earned; If it’s not an A what would you do to change it; Any other thoughts you want me to know).  Then, we take part in the real word application of the unit’s critical concept.  Its my way of hammering home, “For those of you in the back, if you remember one thing from the past three weeks, this is it.”

Its important to note, while I am not going so far as to incorporate experiences that solely they want, I am providing diverse activities they need. For instance, in unit one, the genre was definition; we focused on active voice and incorporating strong verbs.  So, at the end of the unit, writers applied to be King of Queen of the World; in doing so, they must write five active voice, creative sentences demonstrating their ‘experience’ to the voting committee (yes, there’s actually a secret ballot and the winner is awarded three percentage points to their paper).  Here the delineation is from definition paper to resume, active voice and strong verbs anchor the sentences in both genres.  Now, do I think students really want practice in resume writing? No. But do I think they need it? Yes.

Bottom line, it comes down to creativity.  Teachers must be aware of themselves, their teaching style, and, as pointed out in chapter nine, “What do learners need, given the desired results?” (192).  Forgive my bluntness, but off the bat, automatically assume what they need is boring; because as much as we love it, its guaranteed to fatigue the hell out of at least one student.  So, remaining cognizant of that, just be creative with what they need—and maybe, just maybe, they’ll actually want it.