I have been tracking prolific and thoughtful blogs by Annie Murphy Paul on her site, The Brilliant Blog. She provides excellent summaries from a wide range of research and media sources, and two really resonated today:
First, she reports on research described by Sarah Hampson in Canada’s Globe and Mail. Two years ago, according to Hampson, “researchers at the University of Toronto set up a lab scenario to test how self-talk influences self-control”. The key result: “If you ask yourself whether you can perform a task, you are more likely to achieve it as it sets up a more preventative frame of mind that anticipates obstacles and figures out how to achieve them”. As Ms. Paul notes, this prompts a mind shift in a learning experience from “You can do it”, to “Can you do it?”
This simple relationship lies at the crux of so many pathways that are critical to learning, and yet ignored by much of our education system. As I wrote a couple of weeks ago, and central to The Falconer model of creational thinking, learners who create their own questions will embrace the work of learning, far more than those who have it foisted upon them. And the entire role of learning to ask questions instead of immediately focusing on answers is perhaps the key characteristic of truly mature thinkers who are adept at complex systems thinking. Turning your classroom from a teaching space to a learning space can be as simple as turning directions from a teacher into time for students to ask and pursue questions of their own. This is not tough, and we have known it to be true since Socrates stood on his steps.
In another post, Ms. Paul cites comments from Kansas State University’s Sanjay Rebello about the difference between what students learn and how well they are able to apply what they learn. Rebello says “…students who have been taught through a process of active learning have shown to be better at learning in the future as opposed to direct instruction”. Ms. Paul adds: “he is preparing his students for the future with skills they will use again and again.”
Are there educators out there who still believe that experiential learning is not far better than instructional learning? Is this not a fairly simple switch to make in our learning environments? This is century-old classic Dewey, yet experience still represents a small fraction of the actual time students spend in class compared to traditional instructional mode. For those who have the time and want to watch experiential learning on steroids, and the life-changes it can bring to students, watch the movie I made from my annual trip to the Philippines where students live in villages to experience life on $2 a day. Pretty clear from the footage that they will be able and eager to apply these lessons for the rest of their lives.
Look at what Bo Adams and Jill Gough have done with Synergy 8 or what John Hunter does with his World Peace Game. They create authentic experiences where students invest in asking questions and …boom: explosion of both passion and long-term results.