Thursday, August 12, 2010


One of my favorite pastimes at any AAA convention is to visit the poster sessions where teachers from around the country talk about their classroom innovations. It is always impressive to me to see how many teachers are working to figure out new and different ways to encourage interest among students along with a deeper level of understanding.

One of my favorites last week in San Francisco was work done by Mary Michel at Manhattan College. I have a saying (that I stole) that I think applies to all students:

“Tell me and I'll forget; show me and I may remember; involve me and I'll understand.”

But, let’s be truthful, it is always a whole lot easier to tell students information than it is to involve them in learning. Anyone can lecture and the students will take notes. Involving students is much more challenging and requires teachers to do some serious thinking about their goals for the learning experience.

Dr. Michel starts off her Advanced Accounting class by having the students gather into groups and search for a set of financial statements from a company in a foreign country. Then, they must look for a set of financial statements from a comparable company located in the US. Car companies or pharmaceutical companies are good examples that should work well. The students have a set of foreign financial statements and a set of domestic financial statements. They must then find critical differences between the two as well as their similarities.

Okay, Dr. Michel could easily just tell the students the similarities and differences and they could write them down and memorize them. That’s not learning. That is note taking. I believe there should be a rule in education: “never tell students anything that they can find out for themselves.” In other words, get them involved and the learning will be so much more meaningful.

Is there anything you absolutely have to tell your students? Or, can you get them involved so that they will find the knowledge out for themselves? I have a saying that my students hear often and never really like: “I only get paid enough to ask questions; I don’t get paid enough to answer questions.”

I don’t like telling my students anything. I like figuring out ways to get them involved so they can find their own answers. I always love talking with teachers like Dr. Michel who have managed to create ways to successfully get their students involved in the educational process. They just inspire me to do a better job.

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