Desire is Approximate

The aim of life is self-development. To realize one’s nature perfectly – that is what each of us is here for.”

Oscar Wilde

Learner autonomy, a popular buzzword in educational circles, is also a learning process – both for educators and students. Educators need to practice how and when to delegate learning to the individual student; learners need to learn how to be independent, to make choices as to what, when and how they learn.  Sometimes in this process there is silence. Not the engaged quiet of teachers being observers or facilitators in the classroom, but the silence of discomfort, of confusion in expectations and assumptions from the learners in regard to the  role of the teacher and vice versa.

Learning autonomy may be regarded as  empowerment; the power of questioning, the power of self-determination and also, active participation. However, with these freedoms comes social responsibility – a delicate, alien concept still in many places of the world.

Perhaps educators need to practice more transparency as a means to encourage learner autonomy. This transparency is a form of negotiation with learners; for example, explaining why a certain task is chosen in class and not another. Another example would be giving learners the choice of choosing what task they will do for homework. This opens the path to a more participative learning attitude on the part of the learner, where the learner does make choices, does have some power over what he/she chooses to learn.

It is when individuals are more critically aware of choices ,become  active participants in their learning processes,are  more confident in self-determination, that there is more hope for change. For positive, constructive change.

The teacher must learn about (and from) the student so that knowledge can be constructed in ways that are meaningful to the student. The teachers must become learners and the learners must become teachers.”

Paulo Freire

Learning from the learners is also part of 21st century learning. Not a new concept, but one that is more urgent than ever,  so that those who we educate may make more informed choices and be better prepared for the changes that await them.

When classroom lights are switched off, what do your learners desire to learn?

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2 thoughts on “Desire is Approximate

  1. So then… we should pay the kids, the students to go to school. (Because they are teaching themselves the course.) And Teachers? Well, they should pay for the privilege of learning from all those wonderful sweet kids. (Easily done through progressive pay cuts. A new teacher would get top salary, and 20 year teacher would earn minimum wage. This would cause the old to leave, and the new to have an incentive.)

    I often wonder how far we are going to go with this! There is as place for “project doing” (Often simply make-work projects that are made to be fun, so the kids will fall for them and do them.), but there are also some values, beliefs, basic skills, and bits of pieces of knowledge and facts that students simply NEED to learn to function with other humans, in society. Else, common and core values of the society are eroded. And, yes, we have seen that happen before, and it was not pretty.

    Personally, I would be thrilled if kids just knew how to make change and be polite and helpful when they serve me in the store. I guess they have yet to do their self-teaching on that. Teachers are finding ever more innovating ways not to have to teach. That’s cool! But at some point in time, the rate payers and taxpayers will replace them with computers. And then, we will all learn just what Soylent Green is.

    When my niece’s teacher was writing a book a few years ago, we were treated to the revelation that students no longer needed to learn vocabulary, spelling, punctuation, grammar, or how to write a sentence or paragraph. No, an “App” would do all that for her, when she grew up. Needless to say my niece has not grown up to be an author! And the teacher? Eventually she left… and went on to a real job. Good riddance! That teacher was no teacher. Great student, though!

    Don’t give up on the students, teachers. But recall that if “it is a two way street, a conversation”, then you should chip in to the conversation on occasion, and drive down your side of the street! I just recall going through a lot of “new ideas” that did not “pan out” when I went to school. But I did make a great guinea pig! Sadly, it did me little good. I moved, so lost track of the other students. I wonder how they did? I wonder if I can get a refund? I wonder a lot of things.

  2. Hi Pierre,

    Thank you for visiting and taking time to share your thoughts – many which I agree with. Only earlier this morning I was discussing the need of parents to teach their children (as opposed to leaving that task to others), and definitely civil politeness would be one feature to teach one’s children. But I digress.

    Let me return to the concept of learner autonomy: by no means do I mean that the teacher gives up power in the classroom – a true educator does not leave the classroom, but is there, guiding and ensuring that learning is in process. Leaner autonomy is a learning process; it may be as simple as making students read instructions carefully, read a screen and find the place where one signs up for an application, and even giving learners the responsibility of handing in their work on time. As with everything else in life, it depends on the context.

    Learner autonomy (for me) does not mean that the educator does not “teach” – teaching may be carried out in different ways. The example you point out is indeed regrettable and one that I personally do not agree with – an app will not substitute skills. In our current app frenzy, there are many apps that do help students develop skills (e.g. mind mapping, learning vocabulary etc) but I would always ensure that deep learning is somehow processing and would check learners’ achievements.

    My point is that teachers need to know what interests, what captures their learners’ imagination and work towards their interests when presenting the curriculum. No simple task. I know by experience. However, I also know that if I don’t refer to points of references that are meaningful to my students, any possible learning will not happen; students will simply switch off. Hence the need to make materials and learning relevant to them, to involve them in tasks and give them responsibility.

    I have never given up on a student. And as an educator, I have never abdicated my role either. I do however, seek to learn with my students so that I may teach more effectively, in a more meaningful and memorable manner for them.

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