I was lucky, as I was one of those kids that was good at school and got the work we were assigned. Unfortunately, there were (and are) an awful lot of students that do not have that same ease of understanding. Amazingly though, they have a ton of other skills that they can put to use, such as their own interests, curiosity, thinking, questions, challenges, and other skills that often are not given any legitimacy or value for you within school.
Sitting in a class, listening to a teacher, having no understanding why you were supposed to be doing what you’re doing, getting the same results over and over again, getting homework that is just more of the same without any real excitement or engagement or real learning at all… These completely take away from what the purpose of learning is all about.
Purposeful Learning is more, and must be more, than that. It works to enable the students to take on their work and their learning. They understand why they are undertaking the work. They have a fire in their belly and their heart when they are working on it. That “fire” is what I would hope for anyone, whether they are an adult, a child, a scientist, an artist, a collector, a fire fighter, or an educator. We all want to be challenged in our work and we want to improve. Looking at the work of Daniel Pink from his book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, a lot of it was about the adult world and how to maintain and create motivation. Amazingly, it translates extremely well to that of our students as well…
How can we expect students to be motivated to learn content that we, as teachers, are bored silly with? Even if we (as teachers) are not disengaged, we need to help the students understand why they need to learn this, how it’s going to help them in the long run, and why it is important and not just something “for the test.”
This needs to happen in learning from the earliest ages right on through high school and university, and into the work world… I can tell you, I no longer “memorize it for the test” in my work.
As a principal, teacher, and a learner I believe that there are four major areas of focus in learning for all students:
1. Resiliency skills – meaning teaching students how to overcome their challenges…
2. Literacy – meaning more than just reading and writing, but “communicating…”
3. Learning Competencies – meaning more than just memorization for the test…
4. Purpose in Learning – meaning beyond “it is in the objectives set out from the government…”
Missing or lagging in any one of these areas will slow down or hold back the other areas. If a student is low in their literacy abilities, chances are it will hold them back in the learning that they want (and need) to undertake.
Purposeful learning is where the teacher guides and facilitates amazing learning opportunities, typically in a multidisciplinary fashion, that allow the student to actually be a real part of the process, rather than be I’m lucky recipient of the lectures that have gone on for so long and education. Thinking to my own experiences, I know how well I learned from lectures… Setting up experiences, ways for students to tailor their learning, access to excellent resources, access to collaboration to share ideas with, allowing sharing of learning both within and outside the school, and having the students feel like they are doing real work should be the goals that every educator strives for.
As I enter the realm of education as a parent over the last bunch of years, this is what I hope for my own children… And we are lucky to have teachers who are striving for achieving this for each and every child.