On Fishing and Learning

I’ve had the good fortune to do a lot of fishing lately; sometimes I take my daughter and sometimes it’s just me in the early morning hours. In this quiet reflective time it’s struck me that I’d like to make learning like fishing.

Fishing is accessible to all. All you really need is a a stick and a line. Sure fancy equipment will help you get deeper and reel in something larger and some will want, even need that, but anyone can fish and catch something; learning should be the same way. Learning activities need to be set up such that every student can learn in a way meaningful to him or her.

Fishing provides appropriately levelled challenges. Whether it’s fishing with a stick and a line for bullheads or deep-sea fishing for marlin with heavy tackle, there’s always something attainable that’s just a little more challenging and a little more rewarding, but it’s all fishing.  Learning should be the same way.  Learning activities need to be setup in a way that there’s always something more to aspire to without doing something different.

Fishing is completely engaging, addicting even. Fishing has you eagerly awaiting the next bite. Constantly thinking questioning your choice of lures, location of cast, and just how long you wait before winding it in and casting again.  The metacognition is a huge part of fishing and the part that keeps you engaged when the bites are slow.  Learning should be the same way.  Learning activities need to constantly challenge the learners to think about their choices, evaluating whether or not they can make their project better and,  in doing so, improve their learning.

Fishing gives instant, meaningful feedback. If you’re doing it right, you’ll get a bite. Keep doing it right and that bite can turn into a hooked fish and a landed fish.  There’s no need to wait hours, days or more… if you do, that’s  some pretty clear and powerful feedback.  Learning should be the same way.  Granted, it is difficult to design learning activities that intrinsically give instant, meaningful feedback.  This is where the role of the teacher really comes in.  It is not difficult to give this type of feedback when the learning activities are challenging and engaging to all.  It can be as simple as a comment as you walk by; and I don’t mean, “good job” and, “that looks good.”  Kids need to hear, “I like the way you [X], it shows that you really thought about [Y].  Have you considered [Z]?”.


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