Learning to Learn

The Delors Committee under UNESCO, when looking at the requirements for high quality education, identified four pillars of learning; learning to do, learning to know, learning to be and learning to live together. later there was expansion on this thinking to add a critical fifth element – learning to learn – the so-called process of becoming a lifelong learner.

(For those who want to access the report: Learning: The Treasure Within , you can click on this link)

I’ve written in the past about the plague of education systems that spend inordinate amounts of time and energy focusing on ‘learning to know’, until children believe that education merely consists of the meomorisation and accumulation of vast bodies of facts, separated from their context in the world in which we live.

On the issue of learning to learn, I recently came across this excellent article from Education Week about teaching and developing the habits of self-assessment. it argues that the earlier children start to see these metacognitive skills modeled and learn them for themselves, the better.

Education Week – Student Self-Assessment Practices That Work

In short – reflective teachers develop reflective students who are capable, and have the right attitude to take full ownership of their own learning. Then, learners aren’t waiting to ‘have learning done to them,’ or seeking ways to get out of learning – as if it is something inherently abhorrent and to be avoided!

The ideas and suggestions in the article are good and i particularly liked the focus on the students themselves setting goals at the beginning of modules/ units/ pieces of work and then using that as the basis for their later reflection. I agree that the reflection shouldn’t wait until the end of the work, but should be a regular, ongoing part of the process so that it feels natural and draws on experiences and memories which are fresh in the mind.

We should not underestimate the value of this self-assessment and reflection for student motivation. The student who reflects will have a better grasp of what they’re doing, why they’re being asked to do it and the criteria for success. Also, when they struggle or hit obstacles they will be better able to figure out what they need to do to overcome them.

Finally, i also believe that students who see their own learning as a personal journey of do-reflect-do, are likely to have a healthier and more positive approach towards the learning journeys of their peers – with less negative comparisons and unhealthy competition.

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