I have been thinking a lot lately about what makes a good student as compared to a good learner. Are they the same? Can they be the same? Are they inherently different?
From personal experience I was a leaner but not a great student, in middle school and high school. I gave it my all in the classes I loved and read about those topics outside of school. I learned more then was expected or explained in class. I still read and learn about science and history. If it was a subject area I was not crazy about I barely did enough to get by. That may speak more about my motivation then my learning or student skill set but as I grew older I became much better at following directions and jumping through hoops. As an adolescent, not so much.
As a teacher I had students who were very good at school. They completed assignments, copied notes, passed tests, and ended up with good grades. But I am not sure they remembered much beyond the final exam. It all seemed superficial. Likewise I had students who hardly ever completed assignments, barely passed tests, could never find their notes and their grades reflected this. But these same students could hold a lengthy conversation about what we were learning or about things they were learning outside of school such as; computer programming, music, or a foreign language. They were learners but they were not students.
Now I work with adults. I support teachers as they adopt and adapt to new tools (software & hardware) in their classrooms. I find there are still learners and students. The learners search for information on how to use the tools, play around with them and experiment in the classroom. The students wait for a training session or workshop, attend them, complete assignments but there is not a significant change in the use of the tools. There are always exceptions to this as some get started in the workshop but once exposed to the tools they take off and continue learning on their own.
From a professional development stand point I do not need to worry about the learners. I need to expose them to the options and guide them to resources. It is with the students I must focus my attention. How do I motivate them to continue to use and explore the tools? Is motivation the difference or am I missing something else. How do we turn good students into learners?
Update: David Warlick has written a post about learners and students, well worth a read.