"Education is what is left after you have forgotten everything you learned at school"
- Albert Einstein
The main point of learning statistics is not for a student to pass a statistics exam – but to have the skill to assess probabilities and risks in his or her future life.
Examinations only reveal what knowledge a student is able to display on a particular day – usually after considerable revision. They don’t assess the skills, habits and attitudes she’ll need for success in her life. Habits like curiosity and persisting to overcome problems, and skills like being able to learn effectively and being able to analyse problems logically and create practical solutions.
Retention of knowledge is schooling –the development of learning and problem solving skills and a love of learning is education.
Therefore we should, I suggest, view subjects like history, maths and literature partly as vehicles to help students gain the skills to tackle the unknown, (and probably unknowable), problems of the future. To build their deductive powers, creative thinking, reflection and good judgement.
Wouldn’t that make education more relevant, inspiring and interesting to both student and teacher?
There is a gap to be closed
Most ‘real life’ learning is focussed on the present and with a specific motivating goal – I need to learn how to use MicroSoft Power Point today, because I need to make a presentation tomorrow. All carrot: no stick.
Almost all school learning is focussed on the future. Learn this today because at some future date you might need to know it – and anyway there will be an exam. Almost all stick: little carrot!
In addition most ‘real life learning’ is ‘messy’. You are faced with a new challenge and you research it and figure it out for yourself, often through trial and error - though not necessarily on your own.
It involves questioning and often discussion with others – and perhaps copying other people’s successful strategies. It engages your emotions. It involves reflection. And you control the timing and the process.
In short ‘real life learning’ is actively creating knowledge and it’s motivating.
School learning is mostly broken down into bite size pieces and is offered up gradually by the teacher in pre-digested bits. It’s mostly a solitary activity with little role for collaboration. Copying is discouraged. Your task is less to figure things out, but to memorise what others have already discovered. It has far less emotional engagement.
Questions from students are rare. (The average number of questions generated by students is one a month. The average number of questions generated by teachers is 10 per hour!). And you neither control the timing or the process.
In short much school learning is passively consuming knowledge and it’s not very motivating.
Teaching in the Age of Google
Students leaving schooling today are likely to have several different careers – (careers not just jobs) – over their lifetime. It’s a world where the sum of human knowledge is available within a few key strokes on their computer.
In such a world our students must leave school knowing how to be quick, efficient researchers and learners, how to independently interrogate a subject so they really understand it and how to think logically and creatively. Anything less will not equip them for exponential change and a highly competitive world.
Students may have differing abilities, but every student can become better at learning. They only need some simple, easy-to-acquire techniques.
It is for all these reasons, that I have written two books. One for students and a parallel one for teachers.
The first, short book is for students. It trains them in 25 simple learning techniques to make their learning less stressful and more successful.
The second book is for teachers. It shows how easy it is to embed effective learning and thinking strategies into existing lesson plans. The over 100 practical teaching ideas have all been proven in classrooms from Europe to Asia to North America. Any one of these ideas can be implemented to enhance a class tomorrow!
The two books are companions. So students and teachers are, literally, working to the same model of what makes for successful learning. They are both called ‘Did you ask a good question today?’ * The result is a more lively, motivated and engaged class.
Ten years of independent research at the University of Newcastle in the UK show that these teaching and learning strategies:
- Improve students grades
- Increase student motivation
- Increase teacher enjoyment of teaching and motivation
- Improve collaboration between students, teachers and parents
The books cover the implication of the latest, fascinating, brain research and how to use multiple intelligence theory to reach students of different learning styles and enliven teaching across all subject areas.
In short I believe that we can raise the standard of education if we consciously teach learning and thinking skills at the same time as we teach curriculum content. Because what you know can easily become out of date – whereas knowing how to learn is a skill for life.
Educational Psychologist Jean Piaget put it well - true intelligence is: “knowing what to do when you don’t know what to do!”
And Lauren Resnick of the University of Pittsburgh defines intelligence as “seeking information and organising that information so that it makes sense and can be remembered… Working to figure things out until a workable solution is found.”
These definitions suggest that we can actually help our students to become more intelligent – by helping them acquire thinking and learning strategies. Not all students are destined for academic success – but every student can get better at learning and thinking. And thereby be better equipped for the 21st Century.
Colin Rose founded Accelerated Learning Systems Ltd in 1985 after writing the original book Accelerated Learning in 1983 – which has sold over 500,000 copies in over 8 languages. He has been researching how people learn for over 25 years. His company, Accelerated Learning Systems Ltd is part of a consortium that has just been awarded a £5 million grant from the EU for the development of the innovative Teaching of Science and Mathematics in Poland, via e-books and an interactive web site - Acceleratedlearning.com . Colin is married with four children.
The title, ‘Did you ask a good question today?’ was inspired by Science Nobel Winner Isidore Isaac Rabi. He credits his success to an inquiring habit of mind stimulated early on by his mother who would ask him that same question every day when he got in from school.