Learning How We Learn.

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October 23, 2013 by jeliwobble

When I was starting out as an educator, there was a groundswell of new research emerging into how children learn. Much of it was centred on looking at gender disparity, particularly at why boys do less well in co-ed high schools than in single gender high schools, regardless of ability.

It turns out that single gender schools tend to focus on what boys are good at. They tend to have a heavy emphasis on sports and logic based academics, like physics, maths and design based parts of the curriculum. There is also less ‘distraction’ from the female of the species. While most schools are still didactically lead by a single adult from the front, this works better in single gendered schools because of the intense peer pressure from the behaving members of the class, which is undiluted by said ‘distraction’ (ie no one to ‘show off’ to).

Some schools have tried to create a single gender teaching scheme within their co-ed cohorts with some success.

But, what if this is impossible, for example in an elementary/primary setting?

These days there is significantly more emphasis on ‘learning through play’, than there was even when I was learning to teach. Play is *so* important: http://www.ted.com/talks/stuart_brown_says_play_is_more_than_fun_it_s_vital.html

That said, how many children are turned off learning as they move further up the school and it switches from play based, to didactic, instructional teaching?

There is increasing amounts of evidence that the way we set up the learning environment is all wrong. Leading on from the single gender research, which showed that peer pressure was important, it seems that *all* children learn best in a peer to peer teaching environment. If left to their own devices, children will, together, learn things you couldn’t possibly imagine them learning.


Arthur C Clarke talking to Sugata Mitra said, accurately, ‘Where you have [children’s] interest, education happens’.

There is so much research coming to the fore, showing us that how we teach is not how humans learn, and yet we have hundreds of thousands of schools worldwide that teach in exactly this ‘wrong’ way.

It is going to be a monumental task to change it all, but change it we must, so that our children’s children, at the very least, can benefit.


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