Learning through the summer

I often wonder how much learning takes place during the summer months when school is not in session.  Many teachers I know continue to learn about their profession and continue their professional growth through workshops, reading and working with teams of other educators to do the tough work needed to support teaching and learning for the next school year.  I also realize that they take this time to learn about things not related to their professions as well. Things that interest them.

Are students also learning during the summer?  I really believe they are.  In one example I thought about, I imagine kids working together or even alone to learn to play an instrument or to develop a skill.  All without a coordinated, play-by-play of how they should do it.  They can look up blog posts, Youtube videos, talk with more knowledgeable friends and even listen to podcasts to learn more.  As we know, this type of learning sticks and leads us to want to learn more about what we are passionate about.

After thinking about this for a while, I realized that summer learning is not as coordinated or prescribed as school-time learning.  Teachers and students tend to get more involved in something they are passionate about.  For some, it may be learning to program and for others, it may be learning a new skill, sport or hobby.  Even though what we are learning isn’t written out in a syllabus or a curriculum document, we still learn.  I assume, from my own experience with summer learning, that this learning is deep and powerful.  So powerful that we can transfer what we know to other areas of our lives or even teach someone else about what we learned, further strengthening our learning.

So here is why I started writing this post.  How do we help to make learning during the school year as sticky and as transferable?  What would happen if we decided on the first day of this coming school year to have students retake their final exams?  Assuming they did well on the exam, would they do as well as they did the first time?  If they didn’t do as well, did they really learn anything at all? This was actually done. You can read about it in this article.