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Support processes for our learning culture
Clichés are called that for a reason. It is because they have held true time and again. One such cliché is that ‘learning is a process.’ Such a simple statement has led to one of the biggest social innovations of the 20th century. It is sad that while the rest of the world was moving in leaps and bounds, we still used the old methods to teach. Methods that are outmoded and simply inefficient for such a time and place as the 21st century. Frankly speaking these methods might even have been detrimental to today’s students. When the concept of education was started, it was simply to make one a useful member of the society by teaching them a skill. However, with the technological advances today, most of those skills can be automated, which leaves a gaping wound in society. If people can not be useful to society by providing a service, what use are they then? Luckily, we have wonderful researchers who never tire and are always aiming to better the systems on which we are so dependent.
Douglass Reeves a renowned educator said it best. According to him; focusing on the results instead of the process, is like trying to beat childhood obesity by putting weighing scales in every school. This is the kind of thinking that has led to a search for innovative methods of teaching and learning. When establishing the Smithsonian, John Quincy Adams said “To furnish the means of acquiring knowledge is the greatest benefit that can be conferred upon mankind.” This hold true even today. Looking back my best teachers were always the ones who taught me how to think, not how to pas exams. The difference might seem minor but the impact was enormous. Suddenly, I found myself eager to learn new things because I had a way to process information so that it was not overwhelming. This gave me self efficacy, a thing that would be unheard of in the archaic methods of teaching which majorly relied on shame and punishment as prime motivators. As a teacher I want to do the same for my students. It is why I was ecstatic when there was a move towards this kind of learning form our latest strategic planning meeting. Focusing on learning as a process that is constantly under improvement will help us improve on the quality of education we give to our students.
The Plan-Do-Study-Act model is one such innovation in the field of learning. Although poached from the manufacturing world, it is a good way of looking at learning. This process encourages both students and teachers to look at the learning process, evaluate what methods are working and which aren’t. Those that aren’t are quickly discarded. Apart from saving time, the continuous evaluation and search for better options ensures that only students get only quality information. Every new technique taken up has to undergo rigorous planning, before being taken to the classroom. The idea is then implemented while both quantitative and qualitative data is collected. This data is then studied and used to inform school policies. This avoids the issue of stagnation.
One tried and true method of learning is brainstorming. Even in class, have students contribute to how they would be taught matters a great deal. For example, when learning about renewable energy, a simple brainstorm session on ‘sources of renewable energy’ could be revelatory. The teacher will be able to gauge the level of understanding of the students while the students will feel involved and heard. Another popular method is affinity diagrams. This is usually done by asking the students to write what they know about a subject on a sticky note and then having them walk to the front of the class to post it next to ones with similar ideas. It may look simple but this act encompasses analyzing information, finding patterns and having courage to support your ideas. Theses are priceless skill to have.
As a learning centre committed in providing quality education to all students I think we have made great strides in the same. We have changed the merit system from focusing only on top achievers, to including those that have greatly improved. This centre has also grown more focused on continuous evaluation instead of one exam to determine performance. All these measure are aimed at molding students and not just passing into the next grade level. This is the future of education and I am glad that I have had the chance to play a small role in it.