Are We Actually Learning?

If you haven’t had the privilege to read the article 9 Elephants in the (Class)Room That Should “Unsettle” Us, then I strongly suggest you do so; it’s worth your 15 minutes. Will Richardson does an excellent job of questioning the old status quo and making us as educators and a public as whole feel uncomfortable. Uncomfortable in a good way. Without his questioning, people like me may continue to live our lives without ever even questioning the educational system that we are hoping to one day develop a career in.

The first “elephant” in his list stuck out the most through the whole article. Richardson mentions in this first point that the majority of the information that student’s learn in a class or semester ends up getting lost in the great abyss. I personally believe that this is the most important point to consider. If we all realize that the vast majority of the information that is learned doesn’t stick or last more than a few weeks, than what is the point of even teaching them it at all? Well, one might add that educators are teaching so that their students can one day relearn or reteach themselves at a much faster past. Yes, generally speaking information or skills that you have once learned come back at a faster rate the initial learning point. That being said, is it worth all that time and effort that are put in both by the students and the teachers? Many might argue that we should be finding more efficient ways to teach, so that students can retain more information and I am one of them. I think one way to help with this problem is help relate information to their each individual lives, for if it effects them on a personal level then they are more likely to retain it.

The second “elephant” that stuck out to me in Richardson’s post was point number 8. He said in this point, “We know (I think) that the system of education as currently constructed is not adequately preparing kids for what follows if and when they graduate.” I thought this was an important point to mention, because it points out the fact that our educational system isn’t helping our youth in either transitioning properly to the work force or to college or educational settings. Our youth are struggling in their personal lives (because the schools don’t teach much if anything on their home lives) and the academic lives (because the information isn’t retained). One might begin to address this problem by having more real life applications to classes and problems. That way students can connect the information to a purpose of actual use to them.

I strongly believe that it is much more important for student to actually learn the material than it is to have them appear to learn more material. If the student scores a higher grade on a test, but doesn’t remember the majority of the information in a month, have they truly learned anything? What about the student who scored poorly on the test but actually learned more than the student who scored better? It is hard to accurately access this problem, but it is still arguably more important to actually learn the material than to simply regurgitate some given facts for a test.

Photo CC- by Mitchell Norris


  1. I also really liked the 9 elephants article! It gives you a lot to think about and what you might be able to change in your own classroom. Plain and simple education needs to change and talk about how to get the elephants out of the classrooms.


  2. Your first elephant point makes me think of a TED Talk I watched earlier in the semester about mastery learning. Part of the reason why our education system is crumbling is because it is losing its foundation. When students don’t truly learn a concept, but turn around and try to build upon that concept for the next unit or the next class it doesn’t work. Besides, the main goal of any educator should be to help students become lifelong learners. How can that happen if they aren’t learning anything in the first place? There needs to be change. How would you work to connect content to students’ lives in your chosen subject?


    1. We need to reevaluate what is important for students to learn in the classroom, things that will last them their entire life instead of while their just in school. As a future PE teacher, I want to teach not only about activities that they can play now, but activities that they can play in all stages of their life.


  3. I liked the “elephants” you have described in your post. I also love the picture that you added, it is so true! I completely agree that education needs to be more applicable to real-life and it also needs to be more hands on and relatable to students. I am guilty of learning to pass the test, but now, I regret not learning to understand, because I have forgotten so much information. I’m not sure about you, but the addressed “elephants” are something that I personally did not want to have in my classroom, however, this article made me more aware and conscious of them and I started wondering how I would avoid them. Nice post!


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