My son and I were trying out the Rosetta Stone software for learning Spanish. It really is a wonderful glimpse into learning. I began my career in education as a Montessori teacher. Maria Montessori was an incredible thinker. The fact that she actually established a method is a great credit to her dedication and care for children and education. She worked to translate her pedagogical ideology and research into practical methodology. As a Montessori teacher, I recognized great thoughtfulness in the methods and philosophy that I was taught in my trainings, but also know that she would have continued to evolve her ideas were she immortal. One of the basic concepts of Montessori’s philosophy on learning vocabulary is the three-part lesson, which is one of those ideas that is incredibly simple and yet eloquently complex. I recognized this concept in the Rosetta Stone teaching technique.
The Three Part Lesson
Part One: “This is [term]…” This statement introduces a term without translation and explanations, simple and clear.
Part Two: “Show me [term]…” This statement requests identification while providing the term, a realistic expectation and appropriate for vocabulary knowledge development.
Part Three: “What is this?” This question requires the student to both identify the correct item and provide the correct term.
This lesson seems simple but can be woven into lessons with depth and complexity that allow the mind to stay receptive through a balance of success and challenge.
The other valuable learning concepts I noticed in the Rosetta Stone software were:
-not just the allowance for making mistakes (with the exception of the scoring they use), but the sincere opportunity and at times necessity of mistake making;
-peripheral content learning, i.e. figuring out a sentence using clues from previously learned vocabulary;
-multi-pathways for learning such as visual identification with imagery, audio identification, verbal articulation, writing, and problem solving;
-and challenge, my mind stayed alert as there was no translation from Spanish to English so I was always looking for clues and hints to keep up with the lessons. With the engagement of the challenge I was willing to sacrifice perfection to mistakes that would keep me moving and learning, which was far more satisfying than simply a 100 percent score, which I did sigh over missing since they mentioned it!
I certainly recognize these concepts and their value in learning but I find that my desire for students to feel success and protect their self-esteem within the given time of content exposure (a critical variable by the way) leads to some bad teaching habits that rob them of their opportunity for energized and engaged challenge, enthusiastic mistake making, and self-celebrated discovery. Unfortunately, I also find that building curriculum for exploration and discover, which we know to be the most effective and sustainable learning, is greatly at odds with adult expectations of both time, process, and product. Those (us) adults are the stepping boulders to education and continue to be so.
Why is that? Why do adults, who have themselves experienced “schooling” not have a more insightful inclination regarding the needs of the learner? Education in “The Enlightenment” era modeled itself on the education of the affluent, focusing on the classics, the classic subjects and the classics texts. While this may seem fair as education was being opened to all. The model provided rather finite material to grasp compared to current content expectations. This model has been slow to change with the exposure to learners of all walks of life, a rich data-sea that is leading us to the raw stuff of learning.
Many that I highly respect as thinkers and researchers (Costa, Dewey, Gardner, Jacobs, Kohn, Montessori, Perkins, Robinson, etc.) have been saying for years that a complete educational revolution is needed, not just changes within the same paradigm. Where are the successes? The real successes? How do we do it?