A better way of learning …

Research clearly indicates that students learn best when the interaction in the classroom setting shifts, purposefully, from ‘teacher-the-sage lectures’ to one of ‘collaboration and independent practice’.  This is not surprising, as anyone who has ever sat through a boring lecture will tell you!

There will probably, therefore, be general agreement that a number of fundamental issues underlie meaningful learning.  These educational building blocks include, inter alia:
1) Freedom and choice,
2) Ability to customise and personalise,
3) Ability to analyse and receive immediate feedback for improvement,
4) ‘Collaboration’, ‘serious play’ (project-based, real-life experiences in learning) and
‘engagement’ (i.e. brains actively involved in learning; not to be confused with ‘fun’),
5) Ability to innovate constantly and move quickly (i.e. at the student’s own pace), and
6) Independence of practice, application and reflection.
‘Ideals’ they might well be; but they form the basis of the “Learning Revolution” that is taking hold around the world.  It might be surprising to know that, despite popular belief, these are far from being new revolutionary thoughts!  In fact, these common-sense necessities have been around for a long, long time and were most notably raised in a longitudinal study 25 years ago by Chickering and Gamson (1986, pertaining to undergraduate study).

Most educators would surely agree that those self-same principles apply to more than just undergraduate study; they are essential to all situations of learning.  Following those principals, the guidelines mentioned below encompass a number of the now-popular “21st Century Learning Skills”:
1) An individualised approach to learning is essential.
2) Schools need to be redesigned, comprehensively; not necessarily in a physical sense,
but as closely as possible using technology and inquiry-based models of learning.
3) Education needs to be relevant and outcome-based; i.e. meaningful within a global
4) Education should foster life-long learning, global citizenship and support a common
5) Teaching practice should facilitate creative, right-brain thinking as compared to
focusing primarily on developing analytical, left-brain processes.
6) Education needs to be expanded to involve all relevant stakeholders and experts
(not only teachers in schools).

While many schools around the world are serious about bringing about meaningful change, far too few adjustments to the industrial model of learning have been implemented.   Educational change-makers, such as Sir Ken Robinson, have made this their life-task and are beginning to impact upon educational institutions/think-tanks around the world.  Please read the posting regarding Sir Ken Robinson’s visit to Mulgrave School, where he spoke passionately about the need to re-think education.

Unfortunately, change continues to be painfully slow; and our kids continue to pay the price.  There are, however, a growing number of educators who are now more committed than ever to effect meaningful change, and to do so as a matter of haste.  Over the course of the next number of postings, I hope to highlight innovative teaching practices by educators and schools that are leading the way … watch this space!
Eddie de Beer

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