Even in our highly literate society, there are some 23 million American adults who are functionally illiterate by the simplest test of everyday reading, writing, .and comprehension (Bell). Such statistics cause one to question the relevance of our current educational system to the lives and life experiences of many of our students.
The purpose of this study was to observe the kinds of learning experiences occurring in a sixth grade classroom to see how students are encouraged to take responsibility for their own learning and make it relevant to their own lives. To investigate this in depth; qualitative methods, specifically educational connoisseurship, (Eisner) was used. Data collection involved field observations of student-teacher and student-student interactions, as well as an interview with the teacher and with several students.
In this analysis, the teacher played a key role in supporting the students and encouraging their independence by building on their experiences through intuition, or knowledge of the students, opportunities for responsibility, and hands-on teaching and learning. In sum, a mature educator, in Dewey's definition, who leads students outward by beginning with their life experience is the key to developing this kind of independence and success in students.
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