The Learning Life

What do London’s Royal Albert Hall, The Football Association,  and the New Zealand Ministry of Education have in common? All three have called on the services of learning and creativity consultant Guy Claxton. He is the author of What’s The Point Of School? Rediscovering The Heart of Education and a foremost thinker on creativity, learning, and the brain. He is Director of the Centre for Real-World Learning at the University of Winchester, and the author of many on learning and creativity, including the best-selling Hare Brain, Tortoise Mind: Why Intelligence Increases When You Think Less.

claxtonIt’s Claxton’s contention that education’s key responsibility is to create enthusiastic learners who will go on to thrive as adults in a swiftly-changing, dynamic world. Students must be encouraged to sharpen their wits, ask questions, and think for themselves . All this is very much in line with Tony Wagner’s  survival skills for the 21st century. And – hasn’t it always been the case?  And – for those who worry about these things – this does not mean a content-less curriculum. Students can still learn Shakespeare, quadratic equations, the Periodic Table and the rise and fall of the Roman Empire.

Some key points :

  • The disconnect between children as born learners and the failure rate in schools. Children are born with an appetite for learning. Failure should not be an option.
  • So called unmotivated kids are just not engaaged in what schools have to offer.  It does not mean they are unmotivated to learn.  It’s not about trying to ccoerce, tempt or bribe or motivate them to learn but figuring out what’s getting in the way.
  • Look at how learning takes place in the real world. It’s not a neat and orderly worksheet driven world. It occurs when people have to deal with their  “rich, messy, disconcerting” lives.  It often about  solving a real problem .  It’s usually Just in Time (you need it now to get something done and moving forward), not Just in Case (that one day you might need this skill or piece of information). In real life learning is uneven, usually involves collaborationand talking andother people, You often have a degree of control over the timing, and you get to do your own grading. It may involve real life high stakes high stakes but won’t have an abstract sense of competition.

Claxton thinks that we need to narrow the gap between typical school learning and the way we actually learn in the world beyond school.

Outside school people watch, copy and adapt what others do. They take the difficult parts and practice them on their own. They choose their own questions and seek out their own teachers. They develop hypotheses and try them out. They imagine possibilities and rehearse them in their head. They write on backs of envelopes and make scratchy notes and reminders. They imagine themselves as better at a particular task, as successful and use this as a guide.

Different people take up different strategies toward achieving what they want to learn and do.

Claxton’s point is that all these tools, methods and strategies are how people learn. And we should talk about them and bring them into the world of school.

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