Thursday, June 18, 2009

Fundamentals in education

Ask most people what they would consider fundamental in education and they would probably say 'the three Rs' or, in,today's, speak literacy and numeracy. Certainly this is the view of our current conservatist government. But , like most simplistic answers , if people give the question more thought, more enlightened answers come to mind. Learning to interpret and express ideas about ones experiences is the basis of all learning from the moment one is born. As in the illustration we all see and interpret our world idiosyncratically - that is until we get to school! Loss of identify is the cause of school failure as much as is lack of ability in literacy and numeracy - identity is developed out of the experiences we have for better or worse. We need to pay more attention to helping our student attend to perception positively.

In recent years education has become more and more cognitive or rational; learning that can be seen and measured so as to prove evidence of growth.
In the process real fundamentals have been overlooked.

The creation of the mind is more than simply cognitive. The mind is a unified, active, constructive, self creating, and symbol making organ; it feels as well as thinks- feelings and emotions are a kind of thought. Attitudes are created from feelings and emotions.

If we are concerned with the eduction the full potential of all students then how we 'see' the mind, how we imagine we learn, is important. We are, hopefully, well past the 'blank slate' or the 'filling the jug' metaphors, long the basis of traditional 'one size fits all' schooling.

All this is important because our minds, once created, 'control' what we think or feel.And a mind made up, is as we all know , is hard to change. And it seems we are are often more successful 'turning minds off' learning than keeping them 'turned on'!

Our minds give shape to our learning. It is the mind that does the composing.It is the mind that thrives on information it receives from the outside, and which it generates itself. Humans are 'meaning makers' or 'meaning hunters'. Mind fall in love with learning - but they can fall out of love with learning if given the wrong experiences. The 'in phrase' is called 'disengagement' and it is rife in our schools.

So what are the fundamentals of learning? It is too simple to fall back on the default mode of literacy and numeracy indispensable as they obviously are.

The real basics of learning are : perceiving, thinking, and forming and the tools to make use of these faculties are words, numbers and shapes. Or to misquote the Bible 'in the beginning there was the experience' . All too often those who are failing in our schools lack a variety of experiences that they need to call on to learn to express themselves and to read.

To develop rich imaginative thoughts students need to be exposed to rich sensory experiences in contrast to sitting passively watching TV or gaining information second hand.

Rather than focusing failing learners on more of what they can't do it would be better to build on, or motivate, their interests, to explore the immediate environment, to educate their senses, to develop vocabulary in this process,and by investigating ,questioning, wondering and making things. From all this arises a natural need to read, write and express ideas through a range of media but only if students involved feel the emotional power from doing so. Such experiences are all the more important as most of our 'falures'are boys and the first experiences of failure for them is reading and mathematics both all too often removed from authentic contexts.

Once there were creative teachers who understood this. These teachers appreciated the innate imagery of students that were there to be tapped to write and draw about. Curriculum emerged from such interactions.

This is the 'artistry' of the creative teacher.

It fits into the self invention theory of the mind.

It is all about the unfolding and nurturing of the creative potential of every student.

As educators it is over to us set up the conditions and establish the relationship to allow all our learners to learn in as a natural way as is possible.

These are attributes all children were born with. Children are natural wonderers, scientists, artists and explorers.

This is how their brains were made to be used.

Turned on ,active, hunting for meaning, and an inclination to express what they have found out; to make a 'mark' in life, to be somebody worthwhile.

How come about 20% plus of our students have lost much of their natural gifts; have lost the plot of their own lives?


Anonymous said...

It does seem obvious that helping students attend to and value their perception of the world around them is vital. Unfortunately too many parents place their children in front of screens and few teachers understand the importance of educating student perception -too busy 'teaching' reading and maths to value imagination.

Bruce Hammonds said...

It seems we do not think young children have important ideas about their experiences and their lives to share so we don't bother.If we valued their imagery, or impressions, and helped them articulate them, we would have a rich source of ideas for early reading and writing. It used to be common practice in junior rooms in particular but it sems to have been lost. Teaching these days is too formulaic -everyone following 'best practices' divorced from the child's reality.

Anonymous said...

I now know with out a doubt that the most important part of an education is reading and writing very very very well. Without being able to be express your self you can do nothing. My son has a severe learning problem, auditory perception, and word finding problem but because he has had exentisive therapy in English he is now becoming a Geo Physics. A child I was once told would not be able to attend a remedial school never mind a normal school.

Bruce Hammonds said...

I don't want to argue with you but to me the desire to express personal meaning creates the need to read and write or to communicate in whatever media suits the situation. With a desire to make meaning - and with sensitive assistance - no child need fail. Thankfully your child got the right assistance.

No one would argue that reading and writing are not important - to me they are foundation skills -a means to an end - to become a geo-physicist.