My son is getting ever more excited by the day as we get closer and closer to Christmas Day and the promise of opening the currently unopened presents to find out what is inside. His excitement is built up of the expectation of receiving plentiful (and often expensive) gifts but also of finding out that which is currently unknown; what is inside the currently wrapped boxes?
What if learning could be about finding out the unknown, about a learning journey as opposed to a fixed set of outcomes determined by a curriculum document.
Now previously I believed in the need for three things within learning:
1) That students know where they have been in their learning journey. What have they learned so far and how does it relate to what they are learning now?
2) That students know where they are in that journey. What are they learning now and why?
3) The students know where they going in the journey. What will they be learning next and how does it relate to current and previous learning?
I believed that the above provided students with an appreciation of the big picture and that this was important to successful learning.
Considering my sons enthusiasm for Christmas, I wonder whether the application of the above rules may actually be limiting and may result in potential learning opportunities being missed. My son is excited because of what might be in those presents, and because of the upcoming act of opening the presents and finding out what is inside.
If we created learning opportunities built around investigation and experimentation where students work with teachers to find out new things; is this likely to be more engaging and result in better learning?
I think my key thinking is that there isn’t a single magic recipe for learning and that different approaches work at different time and with different students. Unlike Christmas, learning does not benefit from an adherence to tradition and tried and tested methods but instead benefits from dynamic teaching and learning constantly changing to meet the needs of the learners, available resources and the content being taught. Now I am referring to those “but that’s the way we have always done things around here” methods as opposed to up to date research based methodologies however I also accept that today’s current research may be tomorrows debunked research and as such the comments may stand for both. Effective student learning benefits from teachers who are reflective of their own practice and who are constantly engaged in seeking out new and alternative approaches to try in their own classrooms. Like Christmas, learning does benefit from true engagement of students where they are excited and involved, and where there is passion focussed on new learning and discovery. I think everyone will agree that learning is more effective where students are enjoying and excited about what they are doing.
Considering again the theme of Christmas, what better gift can we provide students than the gift of new learning. I think the key thing is that there isn’t a standard approach or strategy that will result in this gift, we as teachers need to breath a little bit of teacher magic into things, whether its Christmas or not.