Who is Responsible for Student Learning?

“A mystery of American schools has been why parents, students, and others behave in one way regarding academics, in another way regarding athletics. If we asked, ‘Who is responsible for an athlete’s performance?‘ we’d be discussing the athlete’s responsibility to master basic skills via persistent drill and practice, to build strength and stamina, to learn from failure, and to benefit from coaches’ guidance. We’d note the passionate support of parents, students, and local residents.”

So why don’t we think the same way when it comes to academics?

Dr Cornelius Grove examines this in his book The Drive to Learn: What the East Asian Experience Tells Us about Raising Students Who Excel. He cites a 2016 article entitled “Who Should Be Responsible for Student Learning?” where the author is unable to answer this simple question. He writes . . .

“Noting the poor results of the latest National Assessment of Educational Progress, the author assesses state graduation standards, No Child Left Behind, the Common Core, teachers, unions, charter schools, and teacher-related factors such as certification, accountability, and tenure. Family poverty gets a mention.

Not even imagined is the possibility that students could be responsible for their own learning.”

In North America, many people seem to think that education happens solely at the school. Too much responsibility is placed on teachers and the public school system. If we thought of education in the same way we thought of sports, students could excel just as well as they do in other parts of the world.

To this end, we need to break down why we view athletes as able to build on skills and improve and why we think of learners being limited to what they are currently doing.

According to Grove, it is because “we put athletics and academics into different mental categories:

  • We view athletes as malleable, so that persevering hard work is likely to increase athletic prowess. We believe they’re highly resilient, have boundless energy, and are able to withstand constant drill and practice. For athletes, we prefer Carol Dweck’s ‘growth mindset.’
  • We view young learners as constrained by their inborn aptitude. We think that persevering mental work could impair their delicate brains and will bore and demotivate them. For academics, we apply Dweck’s ‘fixed mindset,’ then ask, ‘So if efforts to upgrade one’s academic ability will likely fail due to inborn aptitude, why expect a child to keep on trying?

Who is responsible for a student’s learning?

In the United States, it’s largely his teachers. In East Asia, it’s largely the student—as her part of collective responsibility she shares with her family.”

The collective responsibility students share with their family is one of the best possible reasons we have to homeschool. We can build a culture of learning that doesn’t exist in the public schools right in our own homes. We can get together with other homeschool families and make our presence known. We can transform the culture of education and see our students excel. Who’s with me?