Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Learning Knowledge vs. Learning to Learn (and the four R’s of a powerful learner)

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day.  Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime - Chinese proverb

Educators can wear themselves out trying to cram all of the answers into the heads of their students before the final exam.  But what happens after the exam?  Will these same students be prepared enough to be fed (educationally speaking) for a lifetime?  As a teacher it is easy to focus on the fish, solving the immediate problem, and leaving the students to learn to fish almost by accident.  Some students have enough initiative to watch someone and then learn from their observation, but this is the exception, not the rule.  

We teachers need to consciously make an effort to teach our students how to learn powerfully for themselves.  This will empower our students so that they gain confidence and enjoyment from their self-driven learning success.  

As if personal happiness in our students wasn’t enough, there is also the very real potential to become active contributors in their families and communities as they become less of a drain on the communal resources.  Instead they will be able to produce solutions to their own problems and create enough surplus to share with others.

Following is a list and brief description of the four R’s of a powerful learner.  Educators should seek to model these four R’s and to actively teach them to their students.  These are not new, but I credit Guy Claxton for bringing them to my attention via his books and hearing him speak last week.  It’s great when someone is able to put into eloquent words what we struggle to communicate and even form in our own minds.

The Four R’s of a Powerful Learner
Resilient - emotional strength
Someone who is resilient is inquisitive and curious, they persist in trying to complete a task of master an idea, they are adventurous, and they are focused enough not to become distracted from completing things.

Resourceful - cognitive capability
Someone who is a resourceful learner is imaginative and creative, good at connecting ideas and noticing patterns, they seek to improve and refine ideas and skills, and they make good use of resources such as tools and materials.

Reflective - strategic awareness
A reflective learner is methodical, good at evaluating themselves and ideas honestly, they are self-aware enough to know their own strengths, and they can transfer ideas to new situations.

Relate - social sophistication
A learner who can relate will be collaborative in the learning process or in task completion, they are open minded about ideas and feedback, they are independent enough to back their own ideas, and they have a degree of empathy so that they can understand others.