The next element, as we begin to define what the 21st-century-education-paradigm could look like, is to understand the difference between teaching and learning. This is critical because the conventional education paradigm wants to think as one as the means to the other: that teaching leads to learning. That’s the whole paradigm. The 21st century education paradigm understands that learning is not a function of teaching.
That’s right. Learning occurs independent of teaching.
Learning happens all the time. Long before there was any “teaching” there was plenty of learning. Even today, we learn at such an astronomical rate in the first three years of life, that if we continued at that rate for the rest of our lives we’d put Einstein on an IEP! Learning is nature’s way of creating a path for humans to find success. We come to this world possibly the most fragile and dependent creatures. We NEED to be able to do a lot of learning in a short amount of time. So we are equipped (thank you “nature”) with a powerful computer/brain that has more brain cells than it could possibly use, and their nature is truly “use me or lose me”. If there’s sufficient work for them to do, they get busy, and synapses are the result, then neural networks… there’s your “brain building”.
This is how learning occurs – it’s natural, it’s nature’s way of making success possible for us.
What does this have to do with kids in schools? How do we take this knowledge and apply it to the new education paradigm? What this tells us is that people learn by doing. I was making this point today with someone at school. We’d had a parent info night with childcare and the staff supervising the children were subs from the classrooms, subs who really acted as “aides” in those classrooms. On this night they were required to play the lead role, not the supporting act. They didn’t do a stellar job. In thinking through this today I remarked that their experience as aides had not prepared them to take the lead role, so they’ve not really learned how to do it. Merely watching others play that role is not an effective way of learning- you need to do the doing yourself (and failing of course, because we know failures/mistakes lead to learning, that’s why mistakes are so valuable).
What the new paradigm requires is opportunities for students to “do”. Not to sit and listen and watch in the hopes of remembering. There’s a model for this already. There exist alternatives to conventional education today that are seeing tremendous success, and which are based on following \”what nature wants\” and allowing for learning by doing, and it’s incredible what happens when you allow for that.