The way we learn.

I’m currently taking a course on Coursera, ‘What future for Education?’. As part of my assignment, I am required to write a reflection journal entry to the following question:

“Based on your experience as a learner, what do you think you will be able to get out of this course? And what ideas do you already have about the future of education?”

I’ve always viewed myself as someone who has multiple learning disabilities. None of them are clinically diagnosed, of course. But just thinking back on how I used to be at school, and how difficult it was for me in general makes me cringe.

Learning happens when learner is safe.

The list is long, for all my failures, I have specific reason to it, or an excuse depending on how you look at it. Some includes the fact that I am left-handed, and was told off many times by elders that I should not be using my left-hand to write; which resulted in anxiety when approaching studies. I don’t know how much of these are truly the cause for any difficulties; however when I became a teacher, one of the main areas I focused was to create a safe learning environment for my students. That was the highest priority. The rest were secondary.

Interestingly, that was one of the points raised by Dr. Eleanore Hargreaves which resonated with me most:

“… generally, we learn better when we’re comfortable. So I did some research in a Palestinian classroom. I also did the same research in an English classroom, and in both cases, when the children felt fearful, which was surprisingly a lot of the time, their minds shut down. So even if they’re just trying to remember something, being afraid was not useful. And of course, if you are trying to learn to live with people and you are too scared to approach that person, that’s also not going to be helpful. And it’s perhaps ironic, but perhaps makes sense, given the kind of world we live in, but many, many classrooms actually make it more difficult to learn to live together and learn to be flourishing.”

Classrooms of the past and present values conformity more than the actual learning taking place.

This is absolutely true — and though there are many reasons to why this is the case in most of our classrooms in many parts of the world (my context being in Malaysia).

“Mainly because a lot of classrooms value silence, so a lot of learners are actually silenced. And sometimes conforming, being obedient, Is valued more highly than thinking in critical and diverse ways. And, theory is that if you get used to being obedient and conformist and being silent, then your ability to think autonomously, diversely, creatively and to learn how to relate to other people, will be very limited.” — Dr. Eleanore Hargreaves

The course, and my ideas about the future of education

  1. Firstly, I am approaching the course with an open mind, specifically to be challenged with many different views and perspectives based on discussions and theories of learning.
  2. Secondly, I would like to further investigate what truly hinders learning for children, and how can we imagine a future that removes these obstacles so that children can learn more effectively.
  3. Thirdly, I believe the course is designed very much as a reflective journey of my personal ways of learning which I could use to better understand the intricacies involved in the learning process.

And about the future of education? My ideas rest upon the first two points made above, which could be summarised as below:

The future of education would inculcate creativity and more space for children to voice out what learning works best for them. I believe this would strongly change the way we teach, and learn because our models of today would soon be outdated (if they are not already). Lastly, since learning happens best when children are safe — it becomes terribly important that we could ensure this for all children.