Love learning

“Is your investment in education paying off? Most people today spend from 5 to 25 years in full-time education, and then comes ‘life-long learning’. How much is actually usefully leading us into the future – even by the broadest definition?”
Marilyn Mehlmann | 592 words

Why do we need to become better learners? Not only because so much time is wasted in conventional education; but also because of our urgent need to accelerate the building of sustainable human societies. Which is more to do with learning than with teaching: we can’t know what such societies will look like on a full planet, so formal curricula are by definition inadequate or even counter-productive. In the reductive world of technology, it is usual to collect, generalise and share learnings (state of the art) in such ways that the unhindered creative mind is left to build the next, innovative steps on a new level, driven by the challenge of creating the hitherto unknown.

The comprehensive world of the SDGs, with its reliance on social processes, so far lacks such a tradition. Instead, we tend to surround ourselves with databases of “best practice” which, paradoxically, tend to keep us where we are by focussing mostly on the superficial, successful specifics of particular projects. The generalised or generic learnings, usable for others, are so far seldom extracted, neither from the ongoing process nor from the final results. However some principles are beginning to emerge.

Better learning, in 6 steps

The change from teaching to learning may seem confusing; however, it needn’t be. Try these simple steps and be amazed!

Whether child or adult, teacher or student, volunteer or obligated: there are things you can do to make your learning (and teaching) much more effective.

  1. Build on your strengths
    What have you done really well – whether as a learner or in practical experience? Write down the top 3 or 4. Give yourself a pat on the back. Then ask yourself: what would I most like to do better? It may be some of the same things: the easiest thing to improve is something that is already good. Write down the top 3 here too.
  2. Collaborate
    Think about how to improve a point from the second list and find a friend to share with. A good friend. One who will not hesitate to tell you the truth AND is always on your side.
  3. Ask why
    Are you the friend – or the teacher? Ask what the learner needs and wants to learn: see point 1. Then ask why: why do they want to learn or improve this? How will their lives be different when they succeed? Help them be as clear and practical as possible. No friend yet? Ask yourself!
  4. Say when
    Make a plan. What to do, when to do it, with what resources. How will you know you have succeeded? If you’re the friend or teacher, help the learner to be really clear.
  5. Do it!
  6. Stop and look
    How did it go? If necessary, repeat from Step 1. And don’t forget to celebrate!

The learning teacher

Is there still a role for educators? Of course! The goal of a learning teacher is to see the student outdo him or her, to excel beyond the teacher.  If you’re a teacher, try applying this to your teaching practice. There’s always more to learn for the Learning Teacher.

And, if your fancy was tickled – or you’re just plain curious – the resources in the top right hand sidebar will give you more.

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