Getting Around

Monday, January 14, 2013

TKD and Me

Last summer, my daughter began taking Taekwondo (TKD) lessons. For her, it was physical therapy. For me, it's been a real eye-opener as a teacher. Here's what I notice while watching TKD classes that relates to math and science teaching for me:

  • Most classes are highly mixed in terms of skill level.
  • Most classes are somewhat mixed in terms of age; adults go to separate classes from kids for safety reasons.
  • New students are shown what they need to know when they're ready to learn it, not before.
  • A new student can start at any time, not just at the beginning of a defined season.
  • New students learn by watching more experienced students and then immediately trying whatever's being demonstrated.
  • All students are expected to show respect to all other students, regardless of skill level.
  • Skill levels are denoted only by belt color, which serves to let a student know who they can ask for help.
  • Everyone progresses at his or her own pace rather than on an imposed schedule.
  • Classes are open; students come to any class that meets when they can come rather than signing up for a specific time slot, which can change weekly.
  • Students who aren't up for TKD opt out by not attending that day; students who are not ready to concentrate are asked to sit out or leave until they are.
  • Students can come up to 4 times a week and so work at the level of their interest and personal bandwidth.
  • Students test their skill level when they are ready; teachers do not send students to the assessment until they are confident the student is likely to achieve a new belt.
  • Teachers act as coaches who refine skills being learned, often having more advanced students doing the demonstrations and explanations for new skills rather than doing it all themselves.
  • Students who decide TKD isn't for them can simply stop coming.

I'm sure there's more, but these are the things that stick out in my mind. I haven't really refined this at all, but I've been thinking about how my classroom differs significantly from my daughter's TKD classes. I'm tempted to sign up for TKD just to see what it feels like to be a student in what is a purely mastery-based learning environment.

A challenge to myself is to see where I can implement some of these ideas. Some of them are not appropriate for public education. Others are not something I do right now, but that I might think about trying.

I realize I'm not saying anything new here, but TKD serves as a way to show that learning at a student's pace is possible in the right environment. Creating that environment inside traditional school is the challenging part.

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