Transform Your Classroom in a Single Sentence – A New Year’s Teaching Resolution

“Humans learn best from well-mentored, guided experience centered on interesting problems to solve, clear goals, copious feedback, and a relatively low cost for failure.”  – James Paul Gee in Big G Games.

This quote comes from a past post at James Paul Gee’s site (no longer available).  It is a treasure chest of insights about what goes into the design of high-impact learning environments and learning experiences.  Imagine if a teacher simply devoted herself to applying each part of this single sentence over the course of a semester. That might even make for a great New Year’s Teaching Resolution.  How might this transform the classroom?

“Well-mentored” – What does it mean for me to mentor my students well?  What does it look like?

“Guided experience” – How am I aiding students in having novel and rich experiences, and then ensuring that they are receiving adequate guidance before, during, and after the experience?  Note that this guidance doesn’t necessarily come from the teacher.  It just needs to be there.

“Centered on Interesting problems to solve” – Is problem-solving the driving force in the learning experiences or is it simply the distribution of facts in search of a problem?

“Clear goals” – Do the learners know what they are trying to learn or what they are trying to accomplish?

“Copious feedback” – Do the learners know whether they are progressing toward the goals?  How often do the get feedback?  Is it constant and do they experience it as feedback or just as a grade or criticism?

“Low cost of failure” – Does the environment lend itself toward experimentation, risk-taking, trail and error? Does the learning environment induce or reduce anxiety?  The latter allows more cognitive power to be devoted to the learning task(s).