Students Generally Don't Retain Knowledge

Discussion in 'High School' started by pedagogy, Nov 16, 2010.

  1. pedagogy

    pedagogy New Member

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    Nov 16, 2010

    I suppose this will also double as my introduction post as well. Nice to meet you all. :) I am currently an HS student myself though I have tutored for quite a while. I just wanted to know whether teachers here have noticed the same trend I have over the years. It seems kids don't retain knowledge at all.

    I tutor mainly for math courses (Calculus, Algebra, Trig, all that good stuff ;) ) and for the most part, I have taken the courses along with the people I tutor. I have noticed (I suspected this since middle school) that kids "learn" the same stuff over and over and over and over and over and over again; yet simultaneously, it seems as though they don't apply that prior knowledge from the first half-dozen or so experiences wherein something that should be a footnote or a refresher or whatnot becomes another introductory lesson and it's as though they are learning it again for the first time.

    Any particular thoughts as to why or disagreements are welcome
     
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  3. Sarge

    Sarge Enthusiast

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    Nov 16, 2010

    The educator term for that is "spiraling" and it's the current trend in education at many levels. Teach a concept and move on to the next concept. Repeat this at multiple grade levels. At some point it's supposed to stick. Obviously, however base on your experience, it doesn't.

    The opposite of spiraling is teaching to mastery, where a concept is taught at one grade level until the students have mastered it completely. The problem, as you have pointed out, is that if students do not apply that knowledge, then it will be forgotten.

    What you are witnessing is one of the fundamental problems in education. Schools teach knowledge and skills, but never give students real world, hands on opportunities to apply that knowledge. You can teach a first grader the value of dimes and nickels all year long. But if they never apply that knowledge by spending actual money in an actual store, then they will quickly forget it.
     
  4. swansong1

    swansong1 Virtuoso

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    Nov 17, 2010

    I think that due to changes in our education system, children are expected to learn way too much information in too short of a time period. For example, in elementary school around here, we are supposed to teach a years worth of work in eight months so the students can take a standardized test that grades their knowledge on a year's worth of learning. We are not able to teach to mastery, as Sarge mentioned. Year after year of that type of teaching will give you the problems you are seeing in high school.
     
  5. 2ndTimeAround

    2ndTimeAround Phenom

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    Dec 11, 2010

    Yep, not able to teach to mastery here either. If a student takes three times as long to master an objective, he has lost three weeks or so where he could have had an introduction to another objective or two. A little bit of knowledge for a lot of topics (breadth) with get him much further on the end of year tests than mastery in one topic.

    Even if the system was set up where the teacher/school/district did not get 'dinged' for low test scores, I am not sure how I could individualize instruction for 200 students a year to the point of mastery.

    At the high school level I am not sure that it would even help them in the long run. I think it would start to handicap the students. They should learn how to connect the dots as soon as possible so they can move on to the next subject. College professors are not going to pass a student who knows only 25% of the course's content, no matter how fully they understand that 25%. Employers are not going to extended training periods so their new employees can master one aspect of their new jobs.

    I think somewhere in the middle is the ideal place for students.
     
  6. TamiJ

    TamiJ Virtuoso

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    Dec 11, 2010

    Agreed! I have been using the Understanding by Design format since the beginning of this year to create my plans. The designers of this argue that schools focus too much on memorizing, but kids cannot apply what they learn to the real life. I agree (which is why I am using this format of lesson planning).

    In response to the OP, I think a lot of it has to do with the standardized testing. Proficiency is measured by these tests, so kids are taught to memorize this stuff so they can do well on the tests. But, the problem is they are only memorizing facts, but they haven't the slightest idea what it means, or what to do with it. Something has to change IMHO....
     
  7. TamiJ

    TamiJ Virtuoso

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    Dec 11, 2010

    I might also add that we teachers also make the mistake of focusing on teaching (just hear me out...please....). Our focus should be on learning. Just because we are talking, doesn't mean the kids are listening. Just because we taught it, doesn't mean the kids learned or understood it. As Sarge said, kids have to do it hands on. Uncovering new material should be limited to just enough time to give the kids what they need so they can do something hands-on and really discover its meaning. Only then they will they truly understand it.
     
  8. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    Dec 11, 2010

    And then there's getting learners - kids and grownups - to transfer what they learn to new situations. I see that as an issue distinct from learning to mastery: it's remarkable how one can drill till Hades freezes over on, say, simple machines but students won't see how that applies to a given scenario.
     
  9. chebrutta

    chebrutta Enthusiast

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    Dec 11, 2010


    Agreed! I could kiss you right now (I won't though. Promise).
     
  10. TamiJ

    TamiJ Virtuoso

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    Dec 11, 2010

    lol... :lol:
     
  11. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    Dec 11, 2010

    Being good at a particular content area does not necessarily mean that one TEACHES that content well. Experienced, professional educators employ teaching strategies that make connections to prior learning, differentiate for students' varied needs, and review and preview content with a spiraling approach.
    Do you have an interest in pursuing education as a career, pedagogy?
     
  12. Daisie

    Daisie Rookie

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    Dec 13, 2010

    Hi Pedagogy, and welcome to the forums!!

    I agree with you that many students don't seem to retain certain information and subject matter- sometimes we can rectify that, but it some cases the system just doesn't permit us to better address the issue.

    In my experience (and to be fair, I'm still just student teaching right now), a key reason why kids don't "get" the material is because they have no real means to apply what they learn, as other posters have mentioned. It's like riding a bicycle- you can learn about the mechanics and techniques of it until the cows come home- but until you actually ride the bike, you'll never really understand. That's why it's so important to find hand-on, or at least enticing teaching strategies when possible.

    Here's the catch, though: I've learned that in a lot of cases the hands-on approach won't work. For one thing, often these resources to provide hand-on applications are costly, and in this economy, schools aren't as willing to fork over $$ for 'extracurricular' strategies (can't think of a better word for it:sorry:).

    Also, when you look at a subject like math, finding innovative, 'practical' situations for your subject matter can be really daunting. I'm currently student teaching calculus and discrete mathematics to grade 12 students, and I can tell most of them just aren't "getting it". As much as I might like to give them 'real world' examples, the reality is that this wouldn't be practical- honestly, I never dealt extensively with logarithms until I was in university studying for my BMath- it just doesn't apply to everyone.

    It can be frustrating when kids just don't seem to be absorbing the info- the best you can do is just try to make the material as exciting as possible and hope that something will "click"

    -Have a great day:)
     
  13. wrice

    wrice Habitué

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    Dec 17, 2010

    Change the way its taught. It is ludicrous to keep doing a failing thing over and over expecting to see better results.

    For many kids who struggle, any concept needs to be real, tangible, applicable, and relevant to the student in order for that kid to understand and retain that concept.
     
  14. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Dec 17, 2010

    A BIG part of the issue is that the kids who need tutoring, by definition, are the ones who haven't retained the knowledge. You're not seeing the students who have found success in the material; the ones who are pulling 90's tend not to need a tutor.

    This part confuses me: "and for the most part, I have taken the courses along with the people I tutor." Are you tutoring your classmates? So we're talking adults taking college level math courses? If so, it's entirely possible that it's been years since some of them have seen the material and have understandably forgotten it. Or are you in high school, giving extra help to your friends?

    I've found that the huge majority of my kids, when shown something from last year, need only a fairly brief review. It's rare that I have to really reteach a topic they've seen in the past.
     

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