How Learning at Home Can Help Learners Own Their Learning
In the last entry in this ongoing blog, we explored some of the ways a disruption like the change to virtual learning might fuel innovative practices we can carry forward in any circumstances. When schooling goes “back to normal,” there are many practices we have learned from our current situation that can enhance the way we learn forever. Likewise, we miss a golden opportunity if we do not seize upon the chance to change mindset as well. This is partly what we mean when we say all learners should have the confidence and ability to own their own learning.

Children Should Be Seen and Not Heard?
Global traditional education models are based too much on this often-heard (but hopefully clearly old-fashioned) proverb. In too many situations, the adults are in the driver’s seat in young people’s education. This need not be the case. Of course, adults have much more experience, and much more accumulated wisdom, but this is precisely why they should be guiding the educational journeys of young people, not simply determining those journeys. As we have explored previously, we don’t know what the world of work will look like for our current students. The sudden change in that picture given the current crisis (and the as-yet-unknown lingering effects) underlines this even more. Beyond learning the basics we know all people need, students should be learning how to learn. They should be learning how to adapt when circumstances change quickly and unpredictably. They need to develop useful strategies for taking charge of their own learning and adaptability. This kind of learning does not happen through rapid completion of a worksheet or a good grade on a pop quiz. It comes from challenge, experience, and modeling.

How Can We Help This at Home?
At some point, students in this COVID-19 generation will return to their classrooms. In the meantime, and even after they do return, there are ways we can help them understand that their future is more in their own hands than they think. Continue to encourage your children to ask questions by asking questions yourself. Rather than “Did I/you get the right answer?” we should be asking “What data do I need to answer this question? How can I test my answer to determine if it is a good one or not?” These questions drive deeper thinking, whereas a simple correct/incorrect dichotomy may ironically halt thinking and learning in their tracks. These questions also require a different kind of assignment - one with open, student-driven outcomes like some of the different sorts of work students are receiving in their homes across the world at the moment. This is hopefully driving them (with the school’s and parents’ encouragement) to use the time that would normally be taken up in a commute or other workday activity that has been disrupted for deeper thought and exploration. Of course, to use an illustration from a previous blog entry, four times four is always sixteen. But not every question in our learning should be similar in nature to “what is four times four?” While you have more time together at home, continue to push your students’ thinking. We will strive to do the same.

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