Nel Noddings: “Learning From Our Students”

            Noddings’ article “Learning from Our Students” offers a critical perspective of common educational practices in contemporary society. Noddings begins with a brief viewpoint on the learning journey that life entails – not only for students, but also for teachers themselves. I agree with the statement, “when we listen to [students], we learn what they are going through, and this knowledge can be used to shape what we do in teaching” (Noddings, 154). Too often, teachers find themselves retreating into an authoritative position in the classroom, rather than a contributing learner themselves. A classroom environment should reflect a sense of openness, equality, and opportunity. Teachers should find a balance between effective classroom management and a welcoming space for students to freely participate, share, and learn.

 

Noddings continues with an outlook regarding mandatory components of the curriculum; it is possible that education has become too strongly focused on standardization rather than building individualized skills and abilities. Noddings states, “instead of reflecting on our requirements and considering ways in which we might build on students’ real interests, many of us strive mightily to motivate students and to assure them that they will achieve whatever standard we set – even if they just try hard enough” (155). Often, encouragement from others can effectively motivate individuals, however this may not be true for all students. The popular belief that effort equals success may not actually benefit students who struggle in certain academic areas. Teachers should attempt to understand a student’s strengths and weaknesses. This will enable teachers to help channel the positivity in a child’s life as a method of counteracting the negativity that results from their academic struggles.

 

            The one aspect of this article that I do not necessarily agree with is the notion that education too strongly focuses on grades and achievements. Of course, it is important to incorporate other important aspects within the classroom. However, the encouragement to work towards high grades in the school setting can act as a reflection for future endeavors in an individual’s life. In my opinion, it is always beneficial to encourage success and high achievement, as long as individuals have the means to do so and will not lead themselves to self-blaming or further negativity when faced with failure or weakness.

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