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Posts Tagged ‘education goals’

“Education is far less about a set of facts than a way of thinking,” says the professor and theoretical physicist Lawrence Krauss. “And therefore what I always think should be the basis of education is not answers but questions.”

Published on Jun 10, 2015

Krauss suggests that the task of educators is to teach kids to think and question.  In this short Big Think video he also argues that educators are the ones who should set standards, not school boards who are elected to run the schools.

Perhaps most controversially, he strongly suggests that standardized tests do not advance the education of kids one iota and that they have no place in our school programs.

Take a listen:

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Lifelong learning has become one of those catch phrases that pops up all over the place.   We read it and we use it.   It is a topic I have often blogged about.

In a couple of weeks, I look forward to sharing some of my thoughts on how teachers can and should develop their own lifelong learning skills when I make a presentation at the 2014 Pearson National Teaching and Learning Conference, but addressing the importance of developing lifelong learning skills in the students we teach is of equal value!

In a blog post written a couple of years ago: Learning to learn: 10 essential skills for teachers  I wrote about the importance of teaching students how they can learn on their own:

Lifelong learning:  One of the most forgotten aims of education is to teach students how they can learn on their own and that school days are just a stepping stone to never-ending lifelong learning.  Incorporate examples into your lesson that demonstrate the power of self-discovery, exploration, learning and mastery.  Today’s online world is replete with opportunities for all of us to determine our own learning path.  Specifically demonstrate the vast range of sources available to achieve personal goals.”

And in an earlier post when I was discussing which I thought to be the better learning model PLNs or PDs I found myself again writing about the importance and value of developing lifelong learning skills:

New skills, new thoughts, new pedagogy, new knowledge:   The gift of learning how to learn on your own cannot be over emphasized.   The continuous engagement, immersion and self-paced learning afforded by learning with and from a PLN is beyond belief.   Providing a springboard for continued learning and exploration, the very nature of a PLN aims to support an individual’s lifelong learning.”

Knowing that there’s more to it than osmosis, perhaps now is as good a time as any to pause and consider how to develop students’ lifelong learning skills.  When teasing out an issue, it is of course appropriate to start with a definition of what we are talking about.  So looking at the simplest definition lifelong learning is defined by Macmillan Dictionary as

a process of gaining knowledge and skills that continues throughout a person’s life”

While this is a neat and concise definition, I beg to differ a little.   To me, lifelong learning is more about developing a set of skills by which an individual can pursue knowledge.   Learning these skills in an educational setting, be it school or university is what it’s really all about.  Teaching students how to learn should be the gift that educators aim to impart.

The set of skills we need to focus on to successfully develop lifelong learning skills are many and varied, but could include any or all of the following:

  • Search strategy skills: Learning how to define a problem and then setting about locating, selecting, organizing, presenting and finally evaluation information gleaned, discovered or learned is an essential strategy.
  • Critical thinking skills: Learning not to take information, particularly that which is located online, as gospel is very important.  Students need to be shown how to check and verify the authenticity of information.
  • Problem solving skills: Learning how to go about solving problems will depend on the nature of the issue being explored.  By providing students with opportunities to brainstorm together and suss out different paths to follow to get to the end solution are important learning skills to incorporate into our everyday teaching.  The value of collaboration cannot be over emphasized!
  • Lateral thinking skills: Being able to think outside of the box lends itself to self directed learning and exploring.  Students can gain much by completing exercises that force them to think beyond the obvious.
  • Presentation skills: Being able to present information in a clear and coherent way so that others can interpret it is an essential life skill.  Learning to interpret both visual and written presentations is equally of value.
  • Communication skills: Learning to use social networking as a learning tool among our students is vital.  While there is much discussion about responsible use of social media, are we teaching our students how to use these tools to expand their own learning?
  • Interpersonal skills: Appropriate verbal and non verbal communication plus listening and questioning skills, being responsible and accountable for actions, awareness of social etiquette and expectations alongside self management skills are essential for working as a member of a team.   Learning from and with others is what it is all about!
  • Confidence building skills: Developing an ‘I can’ attitude and assertiveness is so very important.  Education must aim to instil confidence in our students so that they know they can learn, explore and achieve successfully on their own.  Providing opportunities to do this is essential.
  • Self-directed learning skills: By giving our students the opportunity to determine what and how they will learn is a valuable way for them to determine the path of their own learning.  If educators constantly set the agenda for students, there is little scope for them to discover the joy of learning on their own.  They need opportunities – many of them – to become active learners who direct their own learning path.  Self directed learning can be very powerful.
  • Project planning skills: Being able to set parameters for the scope of a project as well as setting and sticking to a time line for the completion of a project is an imperative skill to ensure learning continues throughout a lifetime.  Being able to self manage and set achievable tasks is something that follows us throughout life.

Above all though, educators need to inspire in students a love of learning.  By igniting a passion and a hunger to learn, educators will be setting students upon a path of lifelong learning.

This TED Talk by Ramsey Musallam outlines three key rules to spark learning and the imagination of students:

  1. Curiosity: Questions can be windows to great instruction
  2. Embrace: Taking risks through trial and error should be an informal part of what we do every single day
  3. Reflect: Intense reflecting on information gathered is a powerful source

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It’s strange how it can be little things said that can have the strongest impact on you.  It’s probably even stranger to realize that a few words said many years earlier in fact become the basis for a lifetime’s approach to not only work practice but life practice.

For me, it was all those years ago, when I was just starting my career in education, that I ever so nervously sat on the other side of the desk of the overwhelming figure of Dr Leo Murphy.  Whilst being keenly  scrutinized by him for acceptance into the specialist education program over which he presided, he warned me:

Treat a man as he is and he will remain as he is.  Treat a man as he could be, and he will grow to be that man.”

Commonly attributed to the great philosopher Goethe, I realize today that this saying has underpinned not only my approach  to classroom teaching but also my approach to working with other professionals in the  wide range of education sectors in which I have found myself over the years.   Countless examples come to mind.  Those who have worked alongside me will recognize the many instances when I have held this approach high on my agenda.  For purposes of this blog though, it is is suffice for me to acknowledge the impact these words have had on shaping my career in the hope that these words may also impact on my readers.

Establishing goals in teaching is a given basic in education.  Goal setting and defining goals are one of the first and most basic aspects of education that we, as educators, learn.  After all, if you have not defined what it is you are teaching, how on earth can you teach it or communicate it to your students.

Establishing a teaching style or an approach to teaching is, however, more abstract and esoteric than goal setting.   While teaching styles vary greatly from one educator to another and are often dependent on our own character traits, the approach we have to our students is one that is often overlooked and little discussed.  As educators however, it is imperative for us to recognize the impact we have on our students.   As such, it is incumbent on us to contemplate our overall approach to teaching.

Do, for example, our end goals aim to develop clones of ourselves – students who can spew back to us content which has been provided to them on the so called ‘silver platter’?   Or, should our overall goal be to provide our students with the tools by which they can direct their own learning?  Do we work with our students from the base that they have no knowledge as in the controversial tabula rasa theories promulgated by a range of worthy philosophers, academics and teachers or do we hold our students in the palm of our hand and instill in them the belief that they can grow, learn and develop to great heights?

Providing our students with tools to develop as lifelong learners must be paramount in our approach to teaching.   Providing our students with opportunities and situations in which they can safely and confidently develop knowledge and skills should be equally paramount in our approach to teaching.  As I have eluded to in past blog posts, risk taking in a safe and secure environment is a wonderful way to learn.   Establishing a level playing field, in which we recognize that teachers and students are able to learn much from each other is also equally valuable.   But establishing expectations that our students can become whoever it is they wish, is really a focus that has dominated my approach to teaching.   Instilling confidence in our students that they are able to learn and achieve at a level well beyond their present level is a gift that I strongly believe is of the utmost importance in an approach to teaching.

As I now traverse the path of new learning, I feel that the value of this belief applies equally to us all, not just to our students in our schools.

If, for example, I continue to regard or treat myself as I am now, it is  apparent to me that I will remain the same as I am.   If, however, I regard or treat myself as I could be, I will be setting the scene for me to travel along the path of growth and discovery.

Thus it is that I consider the impact of the saying I heard all those years ago:

Treat a man as he is and he will remain as he is.  Treat a man as he could be, and he will grow to be that man.”

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