Sunday, May 15, 2005

What do good learners do?

Art or a science experiment? Both! Posted by Hello

Postman and Weingartner in their book ‘Teaching as a Subversive Activity’ gives an excellent outline of a good learner.

First, good learners have the confidence in their ability to learn. This does not mean they are not sometimes frustrated and discouraged. They are …..but they have a profound faith that they are capable of solving problems, and if they fail at one problem they are not incapacitated in confronting another.

Good students tend to enjoy solving problems. The process interests them.

Good learners seem to know what is relevant to their survival and what is not. They are apt to resent being told that something is 'good for them to know’, unless, of course, their 'crap detector' advises them it is good to know – in which case, they resent being told anyway.

Good learners, in other words prefer to rely on their own judgment. …they are suspicious of 'authorities’ …that discourage (them)…from relying on their own judgment.

Good learners are usually not fearful of being wrong. They recognize their limitations….In other words they can change their minds.

Good learners are emphatically not fast answerers. They tend to delay their judgment until they have access to as much information as they imagine will be available.

Good learners are flexible. While they almost always have a point of view about situation, they are capable of shifting to other perspectives to see what they can find. ….they seems to understand that answers are relative. That is why, when asked a question, good learners frequently begin their answers with the words ‘It depends’.

Good learners have high degree of respect for facts (which they understand as tentative).

Good learners, for the most part, are highly skilled in all the language behaviors that comprise what we call inquiry. They know how to ask questions, they are persistent in examining their own assumption….they use metaphors…they are apt to be cautious and precise in making generalizations, and they engage continuously in verifying what they believe; they are careful observers…

Perhaps most importantly, good learners do not need to have an absolute, final, irrevocable resolution to every problem. The sentence, ‘I don’t know’, does not depress them.

I would possibly add that they are willing to learn off anyone, to share their ideas and to respect the different life experiences and cultures of others.

What we need to do as teachers is to create an environment in our schools and classrooms that such behaviors can flourish. Obviously this cannot happen in school with fragmented teaching and subjects. We are talking about an environment in which the full spectrum of learning behaviors – both attitudes and skills – being employed all the time; from problem to problem, from kindergarten to graduate school.

It is obvious that the attitudes and beliefs of teachers are a vital element to encourage such thinkers.

Considering the above was written in1969 what has changed?


Anonymous said...

It is so important that all teachers in a school agree to develop the attributes listed in all their interactions.

This is the sign of a quality school.

Anonymous said...

It would be interesting to list the 'good teacher' attributes alongside those of the 'good learner'. Too much emphasis seems to be is put onto curriculum content and monitoring at the expense of the art and science of teaching and learning. More so today than in the 1980's and 1990's, I think. It has become increasingly difficult to focus on developing good quality learning environments for students and teachers.

Bruce Hammonds said...

I was thinking the same myself.

Teachers ought to model the learning behaviours they would like their students to develop; learning is caught not taught.

The artistry of teaching is a vital area to explore. You are right, we have been sidetracked by confusing curriculums and other compliance requirements.

Those in 'charge' ought to understand that all their advice is filtered through the belief systems of the teachers - for better or worse. As such nothing really changes.

The focus should be on sharing the ideas of creative teachers.

Anonymous said...

All of these attributes sound like a particular profile from a Myers Briggs Type Indicator description.

I wonder how much we destroy the confidence and ability to engage with learning of people that don't fit that particular mould?

I am very much like the learner described (but not exactly) and consider myself successful but I am all too painfully aware that there are many who aren't and probably neve could be like that. Some of these are highly successful at life and work and others are dismal (literally as well as metaphorically) failures.

Bruce Hammonds said...

All the various learning styles formats seem to have styles that suit school and more creative, or 'hands on' ones, that don't. The same applies for the various intelligences of Gardner - of the eight or so, only two are featured as important in education.No prizes for guessing which ones.

I am a 'random concrete' learner myself - I think? Sounds dangerous!

The 4MAT Learning Styles approach is one of the best.

The main thing, I guess, is to understand and value individual differences. This is the strength of creative teachers.