Most people experience an education in which they are taught the skills that are supposedly necessary for going on to succeed in life. You can ask anyone, and they will tell you that they had an ‘interesting education’. In his TED talk Sir Ken Robinson makes the point that we all have a vested interest in education – as it is this schooling that helps children’s and our futures too.
STIGMATISING MISTAKES: Dulling Our Minds
When a child is unsure of how to proceed with a task or does not know an answer they will have a guess, as they are not afraid to be wrong. But after only a little time being schooled this positive trait of creativity is educated out – mistakes are denigrated. The world of work stigmatises blunders, faux pas and punishes such mishaps instead of promoting creativity and individuality. So, one may wonder why we intentionally squander and quash young people’s minds from a young age, moulding them into unimaginative and uninspired drones of the workforce. What is it about education that dulls individuals’ minds?
HOW DO WE LEARN?
Today I am going to focus on humanising the classroom/lecture theatre. Let us start with the structure of classes. You must all remember sitting down in a lesson amongst all your buddies, facing forwards (
when not misbehaving) towards the teacher: the Font of all Knowledge. In these classes, much like lectures in university, the teacher waffles on about one topic or another, and expects you to have learned and memorised it by the time exams come round. But is this technique of teaching adequate? We are taught about math, science and literacy but not about how to actually learn such content. Think back, and I’m sure you can’t recall a time where you were given strategies for learning and taking notes, yet you are expected to sit exams and know how to learn. When you have an end of term test, it doesn’t matter what score you get – 40%, 70%, 95% – the class moves on to the next big thing. Even the student with 95% – what didn’t they know? As it currently stands the system does not expect mastery of each subject; it penalises you for failure and creativity in experimentation instead of encouraging mistakes that would inevitably aid your learning experience, and push you forward towards mastering each subject.
A LITTLE BIT OF RESEARCH
Giles et al. (2009) report that the level of recall in a lecture is based on when during the lecture information is presented; information given within the first 15 minutes of the lecture is unlikely to be recalled, however content provided from 15-30 minutes of the lecture is more readily recalled. Indeed, Kiewra et al. (1991) found that students actively assess what information they deem as important, and focus on remembering it as such; unfortunately, this means that most of the lecture is expendable, as most students will not remember all details that the lecturer churns out. A strategy for such an issue could be for the lecturer to provide a copy of their own notes to be available as a review for the students. However, why should we waste time with lectures if they are not going to be useful in the first place?
MAN OF THE HOUR: SALMAN KHAN
I would like to introduce you to Salman Khan, who founded the Khan Academy, and who maintains that homework should be done in class and videos and lectures should be seen outside the classroom. Khan suggests that by removing the “one size fits all” lecture to allow students to have a self-paced lecture at home; and by letting them come into school to review their work and ask questions to the teacher and actually interact with their peers about the work, it turns education into a human experience with interaction. Interacting with others about the topic and sharing ideas helps cultivate understanding in an environment that is suited to them, at their own pace.
If we really do have a vested interest in all our futures- shouldn’t we utilise aspects of Khan’s Academy, to see how our children’s learning can benefit during the mainstream education system?