Learning in High School

Posted on January 27, 2010 by


As I was sitting in the Cahuenga library, I was observing a cauldron of tutors working one-on-one with students.

One of the pairs was a UCLA student and a high school student in algebra.

The UCLA student, a tall, charismatic Latino dude who looks like Antonio Villaraigosa’s football-playing son, if Villaraigosa wanted to have a son like that.

The high school student, a talkative Latina who looks like a cross between one of my sister’s childhood friends with the teenage girly mannerisms of a family relative.

The high school student is having trouble in math.

What caught my attention was what she said when trying to justify her lack of achievement to her tutor.

“It’s her job to help me out”

“It’s her fault”

“Twenty people are failing her class, and she has 30 students”

It was phrases like that which brought me back to my own high school days. I would say things just like that when I justified why I didn’t do so great in classes — everybody else was failing and didn’t get it either!

To me it seemed like a lot of students, her achievement depended on her social environ.

This showed the social nature of learning and quite possibly the effect of peers on motivation and learning. Groups can come together informally and almost indiscriminately “code” the learning experience as something negative. I guess if this is true, that the majority of people learn through groups, and that peer groups can code the learning experience as negative, the question for educators should be how to code the experience as things positive for them?