The Conditions for Learning were the result of the work that was done in response to challenges around student engagement and motivation; our data was telling us that student absenteeism was on the rise, assignments were not submitted, and overall, students seemed apathetic towards school. We asked ourselves what conditions needed to be in place for true learning to actually happen. We defined learning so that everyone was in the same place (again, I offer the definition from Katz and Dack that embodies “a permanent changing in thinking and behaviour”). We then began to look at all of the conditions we knew were necessary for real learning to take place; the environment as the third teacher, the relationship that exists between learners and the educator, the need to create environments where students were free to take risks (to understand that learning is a process where mistakes are key), the notion that learning is a social activity (so we dug into what genuine collaboration is …vs. cooperation), and the need to ensure that educators are responding to the learning needs of learners by both scaffolding learning and providing a suitable challenge (the Zone of Proximal Development).
The more that I engage with these Conditions for Learning however, the more convinced I am that these learning conditions are completely grounded in the notion that learning isn’t something that is done to the learner, it is done with the learner.
I believe that this statement, “doing with, not doing to” is the essence of our work. As educators, we are beginning to figure the new role out…to let go of the notion of controlling the curriculum and the learning, and to instead, provoke the learning. This starts with knowing the learners – their interests, their age (this really matters as it directly impacts the approach that we take), and the context in which they live. These factors all impact the provocations/essential questions that the educator provides to inspire the learning.
The pedagogy that is grounding the work of the Early Years is a perfect example of this type of approach. We know that for our youngest learners, many of the conditions for learning are naturally in place; these learners take risks all the time, learning from and with each other (perhaps not always in a collaborative and cooperative way however this is where the educator comes in!), and trusting the educators. Genuine wonder and inquiry is engaged in as a response to their questions; they see learning as exciting, they are intrinsically motivated, and they are eager to attend school. I have seen classrooms where these 4 and 5 year olds have planned the physical arrangement of the furniture, are able to display their own creations, vacuum and sweep up… thus making the environment their own. Families are seen as partners in learning; they develop this sense of belonging and engagement in “school” during the many months of transition activities leading up to their child formally entering the school, and then they are invited into the classroom regularly to engage in the learning with the children, and to co-construct the record of learning that takes place during the Progress Report cycle. These families see school as a partner in learning…not something that is being done “to” their child.
When and why do we move from “doing with” to “doing to” in our classrooms? What impact is this having on the true learning that is happening? on the nature of parental engagement? Will our Conditions for Learning, if fully implemented, help us to “do with”?
And finally…here’s a leap…but could we inadvertently be creating fixed mindset learners by “doing to”?
Until next week…