Years ago, long before I began working in professional development for credit union leaders, I was a middle school language arts teacher. The school district in which I taught was struggling with the “summertime slip,” that inevitable backward step that many students make when they are out school for the two or three months of summer break.
My district’s solution was to shift to a year-round schedule in which the long summer break is replaced by a series of three shorter breaks throughout the year. The results were less than stellar. Instead of helping students remain motivated to learn through their breaks, we assumed that three shorter sessions of academic inactivity would lead to better results. It didn’t. We traded a single case of “summer slip” for three periods of academic atrophy.
The three shorter breaks model didn’t account for the challenges of self-directed and distance learning that are very much a part of any break from school. Learning is inherently social. That’s why we like to share ideas with others in the classroom, discuss our favorite books and teach others how to pursue the hobbies we love. When we divorce learners from each other and teachers, motivation goes down the drain. We even see the effect with adult learners in online programs led by some of the top educational institutions in the world, like Harvard and MIT. The EdX courses of those top universities—which are one-way, non-interactive offerings—had only a 3.13% completion rate by all participants in 2017-2018.
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