Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Children - natural born learners

Every child has a deep, innate curiosity about the surrounding world. This is the first learning environment we face. We all are born with a need to survive and experience the life, and to make sense of what we see, hear and feel. This is the force behind all real learning, and the reason for us to engage in the fundamental learning processes of acquisition and elaboration  (Illeris, 2009).

We use the information we gather from out everyday lives to construct our understanding about ourselves, the life, universe and everything. Children are equipped with tools for learning to make sense of their surroundings - just think what all is accomplished during the first 2-3 years after birth! This informal learning is an enormous force the formal education has chosen not to use. 

I found the following image to illustrate the differences in formal and informal learning. 

Not only are children intelligent and gifted, but they are also motivated to learn.  They are expert learners, because through purposeful play children experience the thrill of genuine achievement -- have you seen a child succeed for the first time in something they have repeatedly tried to do? Recall that triumphant smile?

Here is a list of definitions for good learners: 
  1. Curiosity
  2. Pursuing understanding
  3. Recognizing that learning is not always fun (thinking of a two-year-old who wants to succeed, even if it is frustrating)
  4. Knowing failure is beneficial 
  5. Making their own knowledge 
  6. Always asking questions
  7. Sharing what they have learned

It looks pretty similar to the items in the image about learning, doesn't it? But this list was created for students in higher education.  You can find the original article here. I think good quality learning is universal and does not depend on the age of the learner.  To reverse the negative effects of schooling we should teach about the mindset to empower deeper learning. 

By the time children enter the formal education system they are already expert learners. Depending on the feedback children/students receive about their learning explorations, they will either continue to the direction they are headed, or venture into something else.  Why don't we use their curiosity and enthusiasm by providing meaningful learning experiences and encouraging their questions? Why does school have to promote compliance over critical thinking? 

Illeris, K. (2009). A comprehensive understanding of human learning.Contemporary theories of learning, 7-20.

#wfe2  Reflection post about intelligence and  expert learners. What future for education?

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Nina for the bog. I think you are saying really meaningful here which I perfectly agree with. In fact i have always been telling my friends that every child is born creative. However, as they grow up, their creative gets killed by the people around them: family, teachers, and friends. This happens when we refuse to answer their questions and make them feel certain ways of thinking (the curious level of children) is insane.