Who needs schools. You live and learn!

May 11, 2009 at 2:27 pm 1 comment

classroom small

‘You live and learn’ is an idiom that has come to mean that as you go through your life so you learn new things, actually that if you live, you learn. It comes to mind because I have recently been looking at John Medina’s Brain Rules book (and DVD and website) that was written on the premis that most of us, including teachers and others responsible for education, do not to know how the brain works. If this is true (and I fear it is) how can we evolve good teaching and learning practices?

Medina goes as far as to say ‘If you wanted to create an education environment that was directly opposed to what the brain was good at doing, you probably would design something like [the picture above] a classroom.’

The book by-lined ’12 principles for surviving and thriving at work, home and school’ divides the study of the brain into the twelve principles of:

EXERCISE | Rule #1: Exercise boosts brain power.
SURVIVAL | Rule #2: The human brain evolved, too.
WIRING | Rule #3: Every brain is wired differently.
ATTENTION | Rule #4: We don’t pay attention to boring things.
SHORT-TERM MEMORY | Rule #5: Repeat to remember.
LONG-TERM MEMORY | Rule #6: Remember to repeat.
SLEEP | Rule #7: Sleep well, think well.
STRESS | Rule #8: Stressed brains don’t learn the same way.
SENSORY INTEGRATION | Rule #9: Stimulate more of the senses.
VISION | Rule #10: Vision trumps all other senses.
GENDER | Rule #11: Male and female brains are different.
EXPLORATION | Rule #12: We are powerful and natural explorers.

….all of which are wholly relevant to our education system, and give compelling evidence of what is so wrong with our current system but point the way to how to put it right. A few thoughts on this.

Whilst PE is part of the curriculum we should actively encourage other forms of exercise at school, including dance, drama, etc.. We should also consider ways of transforming the typically inert lesson period into something more active.

The physical, proven fact that all brains are wired differently not only exonerates, but should make compelling and essential the drive for ‘personalisation’ in education.

Everyone has a story of a bad teacher, or bad teaching, that not only meant nothing was learned, but also in some cases that a whole subject was tarnished. We have a ten minute maximum attention span so it is easy for something to become ‘boring’.

Repetition in the classroom is crucial because one missing piece of information can damage the understanding of other information related to it. But information is best remembered if it is understood. Our memories work in particular ways. Repetition for memory is useful, but not in isolation to understanding.

Retrieval of information works at its best when the retrieval occurs in a similar context its original encoding. So, if something is learned during a geography field trip, probably retrieval of that information is hardest in, say, exam conditions.

Sleep is essential to learning so it does make sense to consider the naturally changing sleep habits of young people and take these properly into account in our education system.

Stress impairs learning. So apart from any stress a young person my be under through other circumstances subjecting them to the slow drip feed of stress as they move closer to their exams will severely damage their learning.

One of the overriding assertions is that ‘we are powerful and natural explorers’. We are ‘born with incessant curiosity that compels us to aggressively explore our world’ and from birth we have the innate ability to ‘form a hypothesis, design an experiment and draw conclusions.’

This for me is key. Rather than try and force learning to happen, which in my view is what the current education system attempts, I believe we should allow innate functions to let learning happen.  So who needs schools. Just live and learn!

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Entry filed under: Curriculum, Learning, Learning environments, Pupil voice.

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Pete Burden  |  May 11, 2009 at 8:25 pm

    Good to know my wife’s instinct of letting the kids get lots of sleep is a good one. With plenty of sleep, plenty of play AND time at school I just can’t see the benefit of all those extra activities that kids are “expected” to do.

    Apart from making parents feel useful.

    Reply

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Mick Landmann on education, digital technology, and the 21st century

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