Spoiler-Free Homeschooling

Few things set people off more than spoilers. Someone tells you how the story ends and takes all the anticipation and suspense out of the experience. This may result in bodily harm to the person doing the spoiling.

Why do we 'spoil' learning by providing instruction and knowledge up front in our lessons and lectures?

It's the way we've always done it. The teachers lectures the students, giving them all important information, 

One of the reasons is the entrenched hierarchy of Bloom's Taxonomy. Created curing 1949-1953 by a committee of educators and chaired by Benjamin Bloom, they classified or organized cognitive skills. Bloom's Taxonomy is taught as doctrine to teachers-in-training. 

Bloom's Taxonomy is a guide to the thinking skills a student must acquire, and the order for teachers to introduce them. It is also used to evaluate curriculum and teaching methods, and assess student progress.

It can be useful as a guide for labeling thinking skills, and shows how students can make progress in critical thinking. 

I agree in principle with the idea of moving students from "lower-order" to "higher-order" thinking, but this order can be very effectively flipped to encourage more engagement from students. 

For instance, consider how you would normally teach a chemistry lesson on solvents and solubility.

  • Start by explaining the definitions of the terms you are using, and the principle that "like dissolves like".
  • Teach your students water is considered the "universal solvent", because even though it is a polar compound (the molecules have negatively and positively charged "poles"), water can often dissolve ionic compounds (like table salt).
  • Show illustrations to thoroughly explain the scientific principles of these chemical interactions.
  • Ask questions to encourage discussion.
  • Give a quiz to make sure students remember the terms and definitions discussed.
  • You would then proceed to do experiments to apply what they've learned.

This would follow Bloom's Taxonomy by providing students with knowledge and a basis for understanding before analyzing and applying the information they have just received with experimentation. 

But what if you started with the experiment first? What if you first allowed students to attempt to dissolve various compounds in different solvents and make notes of their findings? The, using the information on the Periodic Table of Elements, they can hypothesize as to why some substances dissolved in certain solvents but not others.

This "flipping" of Bloom's Taxonomy pulls the student out of passively receiving knowledge, and creates a sense of anticipation for finding out the answer. By the time you disclose the scientific principles of polar and non-polar compounds and solvents and how they interact, students are excited to find out the "why" of the results of their experiments, and see if their hypotheses were correct. 

Changing the order of Bloom's can also work in other subjects, like Language Arts. Students are usually required to memorize rules of grammar and punctuation, and then analyze sentences provided in their curriculum, then inserting or correcting for grammar and punctuation.

For Composition, students write their assigned 5-paragraph essay, and the teacher corrects their grammar and punctuation errors. 

Now let's do that backwards; allow students to write stories or topics they find interesting, then read their paper back to them exactly as they are written. Do they hear the run-on sentences, the lack of a needed comma or period? How does what they've written compare to a similar paragraph from a book on the same subject? Let them investigate and compare their paragraph to established and respected works, and evaluate the differences in vocabulary, sentence structure, content, and tone. 

The point of this exercise is to help us see that children are naturally curious, and they often need us to put away the 'accepted' methods of teaching so they can make discoveries on their own. Stop spoiling the learning with lectures, memorization, and quizzes, and see what happens when you turn a standard educational practice in its head.

Have you ever tried to 'flip' a lesson? Share your experiences in the comments below -