Year 7 seem to be the most enthusiastic when it comes to science lessons, especially this week as it was the first time I’ve met a certain Year 7 group in our science rotation. I had a lesson with them Weds, then on Thursday at start of lesson asked them to write (anonymously) on a post-it note which of the two things discussed in the previous lesson was their ‘favourite’, and why. Even though it seemed a bit of a strange question, they did it enthusiastically. However, when I had a look at what they’d written later on the thing that stood out was that several of them had written “Option X is my favourite, because I know more about it.”
Reflecting on this, this seems to be the thing that teachers should be challenging. If they are truly to learn, and to be self-motivated to learn (and to really embrace ‘learning for life’), they’re going to have to switch from being more comfortable with the known to being excited about the unknown because there is the potential to find out something new. My experience with older students (“Just tell us what’s going to be in the exam” etc.) is a sign that this only gets worse with age. There’s a bit of an improvement with the lower sixth, as that’s a group of self-selecting students (i.e. those with little or no intrinsic thirst for the subject opt out) but by this stage most seem to have lost the thirst for learning, and instead either have a weary ‘I must learn it for the exam’ attitude, or perhaps collapse into thinking ‘I’m just no good at physics, so I won’t even try’.
I’m not really sure how I’m going to address this in my own practice, but it might help if I’m explicit with them about this*. My speculation is that we bring them up through an education ‘system’ that routinely tests them, so they associate having knowledge with success and confidence and shun the unknown as something that will bring fear and shame on them.
*Perhaps we should look more into Growth Mindset (ed)