WIH WALT or why I hate WALT

WALT is acronym for We Are Learning To.

The pedagogy goes like this; it is an explicit act of teaching focusing the student towards the learning/understanding that the teacher is imparting to the children rather than the task or activity itself. e.g Kids writing a story and the WALT is We are learning to use full stops. WALT has a friend too, WILF or What I’m looking for. So you can give your lesson then look at the kids writing, count the full stops and then see if you have been successful. These guys also have less assertive friends called – ‘the learning intention’ which can be a longer, fluffier statement and ‘success criteria’ so that you know when you have been successful (teacher or kids?). Kids do know the word ‘intention’ means ‘you must’ when said by adults. It’s great box ticker stuff. Quantifiable, testable, tangible, I taught them this……

I am all for being open with kids, why not SAY WHY you are doing stuff… use all the words. I’m all for the use of full stops because otherwise you sound like ELOISE who is such a lovely character (there are a series of ELOISE books). Of course that book uses the lack of full stop as a device to help in character development. A WALT automatically sets some kids up for failure – all those who don’t see the need yet, all the ones who are focused on the task, all the ones who are so busy learning something else that is occurring at the time. What do you do if the kid does something amazing but it doesn’t show the WALT.. well you can’t tell the kids because that would undermine your WALT, what about the kids who followed the WALT? don’t you have to reward those who did as they were told, the whole point of a WALT is that success is a narrow definition.

Is it problem for the kids? it is another person, the teacher, telling you what is important to learn and when. It is saying what the one thing you should get out of a lesson/activity is the WALT… so that other stuff you learnt wasn’t valuable. Get it – someone else is telling you what is important to learn, someone is telling you what you may have learnt is NOT OF VALUE. This idea has spread to night classes, to adults. I hate someone telling me what I should be getting out of something. I can set my own learning intentions and choose whether to follow them, should I discover down the path that something more interesting has reared it’s head I just happily readjust my intentions. Sometimes I learn some weird stuff on the periphery that no one would ever even call a learning intention, or perhaps you could but it is something one has to come to on ones own and voicing it burst that WO moment bubble… I am an adult, what about children? I can imagine people saying that I am reading too much into this, after all no one is explicitly saying your own learning is of no value, but most of us can do inference and children are experts. All that time we talked to them and it was babble and they were reading our bodies and the bits around the edges…. how do you think they get so good at getting adults to do stuff for them? They don’t do what we say but what we do, the non deliberate acts of teaching are what stay. No one surely doubts that saying “you look nice” to little girls teaches them looking nice is important and is something girls must do as no one says this to boys (or girls they think are boys – make your girl child have short hair so good for their future). We totally expect kids to to do inference, why do we have such problems with kids who are literal because they are not neuro-typical. So the kids learn their self directed leaning is not what is important the adult dictated narrow task is….

I am not saying there isn’t value in learning a defined task, I do it all the time, but that it needs to be a conversation not a directive. Currently we are making a testable generation, here’s what you have to learn and you will know when you do because the box will be ticked – the “is this assessed?” syndrome. It’s the antithesis of creativity. So little kids loose the skills to genuinely be self directed learners, maybe they learn it later…hmmm.. what if those little kids become managers and are on projects, an adults version of the accountability WALT and WILF  – Here’s what my Uncle, a scientist, who was a Director of the Horticulture Division of a Government Institution said:

“The problem with the project  approach is that it assumes and asks for success, damping down the search for new ideas. For about my last 4 years I was in the project-oriented world and found it stifling. Sure I could put down a successful project where I could deliver what I promised, but where was the place for insights? The project proposal asks for description of the process, not the target. Put down “I want to understand better how watercore in apples occurs” and you don’t get funded. Describe in detail the experiments you plan, when you don’t know really what ones you need until you have stepped down the path, you might have a show.”

The rest is on my Dad’s blog Ihavethoughts.blog

I can see advantages for teachers – mass teaching, one lesson for all then look at who didn’t get it. Of course you loose the impetus for the teachable moment, to see the moment when the child is individually ready for a certain point, but then who has the time for that. You can say “I’ve done full stops”. Even better if someone else is telling you what kids are supposed to learn at a certain point (a standard).. However the responsibility falls on the teacher, not so much the student, to be responsible for the learning “I wasn’t told.” Here is the list of learning intentions and look you didn’t cover it… accountability?

I wonder what would happen if we let kids learn what they wanted? If we talked to kids, asking them questions that we genuinely wanted to know the answer to, or just a well placed “ah ha” grandma style, or even just butted out, what if we let them be the experts. It’s not rocket science to go “I want to do that” and then work out what it is one has to do to get there. Of course I don’t know what I don’t know…. but I could ask? I love finding stuff out and I know people with a wide range of interests, I expose my self to new stuff -could try harder here. I’ll be OK, but I am a strong willed, reflective, adult (middle aged even) and the aim of education in my day wasn’t my eventual employment and it didn’t have to be so quantitative.