Monday, June 26, 2006

What is this thing called learning?

 It seems simple enough. So why do so many 'learners' fail at school? Dysfunctional schools or dysfunctional learners? Posted by Picasa

Children go to school to learn.

It seems simple enough.

However when they enter school children find what they and their parents have experienced as learning does not always match what the teachers think

At home learning is shaped by responses to experience often mediated through conversation. The responses are shaped by the queries and questions about things that surprise the young child, or don’t seem to ‘fit’ what they have come to expect.

At school ‘learning’ is organized and shaped by the teacher who in turn is influenced by curriculums devised by others outside of the classroom. What happens in school should enhance student’s capacities to learn. If this happens, and students feel the ‘power’ of success, then they are on their way to becoming ‘life long learners’.

When it does not, students pay a personal and social price.

So learning is not as simple as it seems.

Many teachers draw on their experience, common sense, and professional knowledge as the basis for their teaching. What is sometimes missing is a ‘shared language’ of what learning is across a school so teachers can, talk to each other, their student’s parents, and also to hold themselves accountable.

This must be the ‘heart’, or the ‘art’, of teaching.

So ‘learning’ can mean many things.

Some teachers see ‘learning’ as transmitting knowledge or skills to students for them to memorize, or use, while other teachers spend time finding out what students bring to the learning situation and then build on and challenge their ideas. Some teachers determine what students ought to know and plan accordingly while other value students personal ‘voice’ and concerns as the beginning of learning.

The teachers ‘stance’ makes a difference!

And then there are those who see ‘learning’ as ‘achieving targets’ in literacy and numeracy, happily leaving to one side other important attributes, or subjects like the arts, that are harder to measure.

At a time when ‘experts’ now say that the individual teachers skill is the vital variable in child learning (up to 60%) it would be important for a school to clarify the core beliefs about teaching that all teachers should share –and that these beliefs should be mix of successful teacher practice and what research tells us about how students learn.

So it is not just about ‘learning’ (something) it is also learning ‘how to learn’ and also being ‘aware of how one learns’ – called metacognition.

Teachers need to be able to articulate what their beliefs are about teaching and learning and to be continually expanding their repertoire of teaching and learning strategies.

So ‘learning’ is a process that involves both teachers and students. When all members of the school are engrossed in learning then you have ‘learning community’.

Not all schools are ‘learning communities’ because too many students are failing..

Next time you see a teacher ask them what beliefs they base their teaching on?

You can’t take it for granted that all teachers will be able to answer the question.

See Te Ara Vision on our site for five core beliefs.


Bruce said...

Teachers need to focus on creating the conditions where students want to continue learning. Schooling should never diminish or harm a student! As Mark Twain said , 'I never let schooling interfere with my learning'.

Anonymous said...

It is strange that schools should be such poor learners.I bet few of them have a learning policy they hold themselves to!

You would think that clarifying their beliefs would be the number one priority.