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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

'Learning stations' are glitzy busywork: Teachers should teach

"Learning stations" are a waste of time, writes Daniel Buck. Motivated achievers may be able to learn independently, but most students learn best when the teacher teaches.


In many classrooms the teacher gives a brief mini-lesson, "before setting kids loose to transition through a maze of stations full of glitter, glue, and razzmatazz," he writes. As the teacher moves around the room or works with a small group, students are "engaged" in activities. But are they learning?


Learning stations offer "a hodgepodge of the promising and the pointless," writes Buck. Some tasks require more thinking that students realistically can do, while others require none at all. There's "lots of needless coloring or word searches."



A video on Edutopia, praises a station-based classroom, Buck writes. "What’s the point of a twenty-minute station where students spend their time cutting, pasting, and writing in rainbow letters?"


While there's virtually no research on learning stations, he writes, other studies suggest students learn more when class time is spent on teacher-directed activities, such as direct instruction, modeling and questioning.


In the 1980's, researchers found “structure, direct instruction, teaching the whole class and discussion led to greater achievement, Buck concludes. "Teacher talk" was more effective than "student talk."


"Explicit, mostly whole-class, intellectually engaging instruction," with checks for understanding, is a key element of effective teaching, writes Mike Schmoker, a former teacher and administrator, in Education Week. He's the author of Results NOW 2.0: Untapped Opportunities for Swift, Dramatic Gains in Achievement.

Educators are infatuated with "high-sounding schemes, ill-conceived mandates, fashionable theories, pedagogic methods, programs, and school arrangements, writes Schmoker. Instead of training teachers in effective instruction, schools focus on “whims, fads, opportunism and ideology.”


Esther Quintero, writing about the importance of background knowledge on the Shanker Institute blog, also plugs "explicit, systematic, well-organized instruction."


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10 Comments


Guest
Aug 26, 2023

Absolutely an overused method. It should be limited, reserved for very, very, few activities. The prevalent presupposition that everything should be fun is harming our children. School is their work at their age appropriate level and that's a good thing! The twin presupposition that students learn best from other students dooms children to the level of knowledge of the most advanced child in the room, if the others are even focused on the subject at hand as opposed to socializing. We deprive students of the self-confidence and sense of achievement gained through mastering a challenge. Interestingly, we do not do do this in the area of athletics with students who are coached and encouraged to accept a challenge, do hard…

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Guest
Aug 25, 2023

>>> THIS <<<


"Stations" add transition time to the school day, each taking 5-10 minutes out of the day. It's disruptive, and as said above, expensive. Back in the 70's we had one teacher, rarely with a student teacher as well, to handle 30 students. But we were seated in individual desks in rows and columns, and the teacher taught.


It's all about making sure the classroom is "fun". In those schools which actually want to do okay on standardized tests, they then send the actual work home for the parents to teach/supervise in the evenings--ruining kids free time and making home life painful for families who have to keep cracking the whip to get kids to do the non-fun…


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Bruce Smith
Bruce Smith
Aug 24, 2023

I am struck by how expensive this approach is (apparently one teacher, one aide, and one parent volunteer per class, in addition to the technology that must be maintained, at a cost beyond that of the books that scarcely appear in this video), and how narrow the learning objectives are: we are told that by 11th grade the students may well top the Rhode Island average in reading and writing (an odd separation of what should be higher English by that grade level, for the students still in high school, and losing the opportunity for an apprenticeship that might ensure their employability when they reach adulthood), and may be achieving comparably well in mathematics at that age, but how abou…

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Guest
Aug 24, 2023

There's indeed no research showing that learning stations improve learning outcomes.


There is also no research showing that learning stations are commonly used anywhere in the country.

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phillipmarlowe
Aug 24, 2023

We had learning stations in second grade. Catholic parochial school.

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