How much spoon feeding?


I have children. Yes, they’re big now. But they were once little.  And I’m not sure they ever did what they were told (not sure where they got that from…)

So when they were learning to feed themselves, they got cheerios (I understand that these are now tantamount to death traps, but so are those walkers on wheels which are awesome), noodles, bananas, blueberries, rice… basically if it was edible, was able to be picked up and flung on the floor by tiny fingers, they got it.  It’s what you do with babies.

But they also got spoon feeding. I would have not even considered requiring my recently weaned babies to provide 100% of their nutritional requirements, based on the idea that they would enjoy food more if they had to forage for it. I have the same issue with students and math. Really, you think 14-year olds are going to spontaneously invent a system of algebra that some really clever people managed to put together over centuries of learning? And you think they’re going to do it in 9 weeks? I have news.

So I am looking at the spoon feeding. How much do I think they can do on their own? Last semester I provided links to web pages of instructions, that almost nobody used. I talked people through steps in Excel, over and over again, but nobody ( not a single person) could make a pie chart from a  set of data ( first they had to make a bin set), even though the course work had them make the bin sets at least 6 times. Is this because I did not spoon feed enough, or because I helped at all? More than half my students chose to sit and do nothing rather than try, even when I did go to walk them through the beginning steps. Conventional discovery learning says there’s no point walking them through the instructions as a whole class, but letting it go feels like a defeat. And too much feeding leads to vomit down your back (yes, you young parents, it’s not new). No gain.

I blame the kids’ lack of short term memory. No short term, no long term, every day is new again.  Scary.


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