Who’s in charge of the learning?

It’s interesting how things come around. Nowadays with our youngest learners we talk about facilitating ‘child initiated learning’ and we are all implored as teachers to empower this most irrepressible feature of the enquiring mind. I suppose in many ways it seems so obvious that young children are programmed to learn that we imagine that child initiated learning will ‘just happen’. Of course, it does! But what will they learn? Well, mostly, whatever they want to, although inadvertently they will also learn other things that we might not want or intend them to learn. However, child initiated learning is more complicated than it sounds at first consideration: there is a government agenda or programme of the kind of things that children of various ages should learn. So often, child initiated learning amounts to something slightly different to what it says on the can. Perhaps a better way of putting it would be ‘child initiated areas of interest in to which government-approved learning outcomes are introduced’. Hmmm. Am I the only one that feels that this may be too narrow? Isn’t some of the most exciting teaching that which runs with children’s interests AND outcomes? Doesn’t this empower higher order thinking and creativity rather than important, but lower level, skills? And if we pursue THIS sort of child initiated learning over time, won’t we find that all these lower level skills are covered anyway? Let’s not pretend to put the children in charge of learning, but take a deep breath and actually PUT THE CHILDREN IN CHARGE OF THEIR OWN LEARNING.

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4 thoughts on “Who’s in charge of the learning?

  1. Neil I wholeheartedly commend and endorse the work that you and your school are doing in sp many aspects of learning, not least of which is in the development of independence and a sense of ownership through negotiated learning. It seems to me that what is getting in the way is language and the pre-conceived notions it drums up in the mind. Einstein was so right when he reflected that’the only thing that gets in the way of my learning is education.’
    Unfortunately we have a language of education is not fully compatible with the language we need for 21st Century Learning – hence the dilemma of referring to ‘child-centred learning’ and the different images that term creates in people’s minds. Rather than a ‘National Curriculum’ perhaps we should be encouraging a ‘National Language of Learning’ so that at least we can have a shared understanding by everyone of what ‘effective learning’, ‘deep learning’ and ‘profound learning’ look like, whatever the context.
    We continue to refer to ‘learning in the classroom’ and use that context almost exclusively to define learning experiences and immediately hit the perception problem that people revert to a language to do with their own ‘education’ when evaluating what is worthwhile and meaningful. I am certain that children have a very clear idea of what they want, and increasingly what they feel they need, to learn. Unfortunately too many ‘educators’ have still to learn the language.

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