Monday, April 28, 2014

A teaching mantra: less us, more them

This was written by Gary Stager and Sylvia Libow-Martinez who writes and speaks about progressive education. He is the co-author of Invent to Learn. Gary blogs here and tweets here. Sylvia's website is here and tweets here. This post is an excerpt from his book Invent to Learn.

by Gary Stager and Sylvia Libo-Martinez

Anytime an adult feels it necessary to intervene in an educational transaction, they should take a deep breath and ask, "Is there some way I can do less and grant more authority, responsibility, or agency to the learner?"

Understanding is the result of existing knowledge accommodating and explaining new experiences. If we focus on a handful of powerful ideas and create experiences where students naturally need to stretch their understanding, students learn more. The role of the teacher is to create and facilitate these powerful, productive contexts for learning.

One simple way to do this is to make your teaching mantra, "Less Us, More Them." Piaget suggests that it is not the role of the teacher to correct a child from the outside, but to create the conditions in which the student corrects himself. Whenever you are about to intervene on behalf of a teachable moment, pause and ask yourself, "Is there a way I can shift more agency to the learner?"

Less Us, More Them (LUMT) doesn't exempt teachers from the learning process, or minimize the importance of their expertise within the learning environment. LUMT raises expectations and standards in our classrooms by granting more responsibility to the learner. In this environment, it is natural to expect kids to look up unfamiliar words, proofread, and contribute resources for class discussion without prodding from the teacher.

To start making your classroom more student-centred, demonstrate a concept and then ask students to do something.


Walk around and support them when asked. Bring the group together to celebrate an accomplishment or seize the next teachable moment. We need to operate as if students own the time in our classrooms, not us. Kids rise to the occasion if we let them. When students own the learning process, they also own the knowledge they construct. Self-reliance results when we relinquish control and power to our students.

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