He Didn’t Know What He Didn’t Know

Here is an example of a teacher who found a way of knowing for a learner, and how the learner learnt something about himself in the process.

At a workshop with about a dozen peers, Reem showed two very short sequences of film that she had helped one of her grade 3–4 students to make.

‘The task involved each student choosing a skill or competence, which they were asked to research and develop in themselves with the help of a buddy.’

Pointing to the boy frozen on screen before triggering the film-clip she said, ‘Tim is often disengaged from class work, for example anything that involves me talking at the front of the room or him working individually he’s just not interested’.

‘And he can be quite distracting and disruptive for everyone else’ she added. ‘However we discovered that he was very interested in shot-put, as you will see, so this was the competence we encouraged him to research and develop in himself. We chose film as the medium for this research’.

The first part of the film showed the boy throwing the shot before his research.

Reem, narrating the snippet noted: ‘At this point he didn’t know what he didn’t know.’

The second part of the film showed the boy throwing the shot after his investigations.

‘You can see for yourself the remarkable change in his competence, and look how happy he is about this’, she said gesturing to his on-screen smile and obvious pride. ‘You can see that he knows that he knows, and the evidence is there in the these short snippets’.

‘The two films clips represent and document how he acquired knowledge’ she said.

‘In addition to the film clips he learned how to use a spreadsheet to tabulate his information, seeking out the help he needed to learn how to use a spreadsheet. This would never have happened before,’ she said.

‘I am just so extraordinarily proud of his achievement and so very proud of him, just to have him engage so completely’. She added: ‘All we did was provide the time and helped with resources and he did the rest’.

‘You make it sound so simple’, quipped one of the teachers.

‘I think it has to do with who you think is responsible … as the teacher, because we expect the kids to be responsible and take ownership of the task we take less responsibility and ownership ourselves. We give the kids the responsibility for the task and the learning’.

‘However, a lot of thought and care went into supporting them, supporting the individual choices and, really none of these choices was accidental’, she said. ‘Tim chose shot-put because that was what he was interested in, then we had to figure out how he could research and demonstrate his learning’.

‘Yes, perhaps just as important though was that he valued what he was doing because you valued what he was doing’ another teacher said in response. ‘And another important thing here is the transfer of learning into ways of learning … Tim has learned how to learn’.