To create conditions optimum for learning, educators must understand how students learn. Hand in hand with nurturing a growth mindset is the understanding of the role of learning in our lives. Benjamin Barber, a political theorist, once observed:"I don't divide the world into the weak and the strong, or the the successes and the failures. I divide the world into the learners and the non learners."
As educators, it is imperative to define for ourselves what learning should be. What educational practices are in the best interest of young learners and how can you best bring those theories into practice? Here a few ideas:
- Learners should be challenged. Through differentiation and a teacher's understanding of her individual learners and grade level standards, each student should have assignments and assessments that are appropriately challenging requiring him to initially struggle, yet develop perseverance as he progresses toward mastery. Students should be asked to think critically, solve problems, and reflect.
- Learners should be leaders. According to National Training Laboratories, students retain 90% of the material when they are required to present it or teach it to others (http://www.teachinontario.ca/employment/En/3b_strategies.html). In classrooms, opportunities should be given for students to present materials and instruct one another. When students are given the freedoms of choice and voice in the classroom, they learn.
- Learners should be active. Learning is not a passive verb and learners are not merely spectators. Allow students to interact with one another and move away from the desk. Embrace the practice of small group activities that require students to actively learn through playing on the floor, competing in games, or participating in campus-wide scavenger hunts.
- Learners should be creative. Give opportunities to create in different ways using technology, scientific experiments, visual and performing arts. Hands-on opportunities regularly enrich the learning experiences of students.
Establishing what you believe about learning helps you be more intentional in both modeling and implementing these practices as you and your students experiene learning together.