Friday, November 14, 2008

Real life learning!

More thoughts from Guy Claxton's book 'What's the Point of School'.

Children are born to learn but you wouldn't think so when you consider 'school failure'! This appetite to learn , according to Guy Claxton, is innate and failure ought not to be an option.

All those unmotivated students are simply kids who don't want to learn what the school wants to teach them. The question, writes Guy Claxton, 'is not whether young people can be persuaded to learn,it is: 'what stops them, or puts them off'.

The key is to base school learning on 'real life learning' that occurs when people have to deal with their 'rich, messy, disconcerting life'.

Real life learning usually happens in the context of getting something interesting done - mostly learning is a means to an end. In real life 'you zoom in on a specific bit of focused learning at just the moment you need it.' In school, a good deal of learning lacks this timing.

School learning is often piecemeal broken down into little bits. School learning usually involves solving problems of carefully graded difficulty. In real life there is no one to to do the pre-grading for you. The learning curve is anything but smooth but you usually have more control over when, why,and how you go about doing it.

In real life learning often involves a lot of collaboration and talking. No one know the answer ahead of time. More knowledgeable members help each other. In school , though there is group work, learning is essentially individual and may even be competitive

In real life people:

Watch each other and copy or adapt what they see.
They go off by themselves to practice 'hard bits'
They ask their own questions and select their own 'teachers'.
They make scruffy notes and diagrams to hep them think and plan.
They create half baked ideas and possibilities and try them out.
They run through things in their head imagining how things might play out.
They imagine themselves doing something better and use this to guide their practice.

In school, he says, you may or not make use of these kinds of general learning tools, but you will rarely hear them talked about.

The missing key, states Claxton, 'is thinking about how to narrow the gap between the way learning is 'done' in schools, and the way it is done in the outside world'.

Children , Claxton says, quoting Cambridge professor Joan Riddick, are 'hungry for the three Rs -responsibility, respect and real- and the three Cs - choice, challenge and collaboration'.

Schools, it would seem , need to do some 'real' learning if they are to ensure all students retain their birthright to learn. 'School' failure ought not to be an option.


Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Kia ora Bruce!

I concur with your sentiments in this post and wholeheartedly agree with Claxton's point of view that kid's were born to learn.

Perhaps 'School' has forgotten something of what must accompany the learning activities (and I include the authorities when I use the term 'School').

It is clear to me, and always has been, that having fun is the natural companion to learning. And not just for young children - mature adults too! The fact is, young children show us how and why it is the natural companion.

Ka kite
from Middle-earth

Bruce Hammonds said...

Thank as ever for your comments Middle earth. Have you read the Claxton book I am referring to? I think you would really enjoy it.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Bruce,

I am trying to get in touch with you regarding some professional development work in 2009 and having no luck with email addresses. Sorry to use your comment feature in this way but is a last resort.

Mike Anderson
principal @

Bruce Hammonds said...

No problem Mike.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Bruce - can you drop me an email so I can capture your address and start some planning?


Anonymous said...

I just got hold of Guy's book via my PLN and intend to make it the focus of my summer reading- quite an honour for him as I haven't read a whole book for a year- the joys of reading on line- I have actually done more reading this year than ever before!

I live in fear of national testing. Not only for the time taken in doing it but also how the information could well be used to flog school who are 'below average' as 50% of the schools will inevitably be.

Bruce Hammonds said...

Hi Allanah

I think you will enjoy the book - fleshes out the ideas expressed in the NZC about key competencies.