Learning about learning is as tough a philosophical proposition as there is, right up there with why is there something rather than nothing.
The Greeks recognized that trying to understand Learning is so important that they gave it its own category of philosophy. They had two questions: How do we know how we know? And how do we know what we know? They called it Epistemology.
We now call it Learning Theory. It still continues to intrigue educational theorists after 2400 years. Beginning with the trinity of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle to Maria Montessori, William James, Jean Piaget, Mortimer Adler, Carl Jung, Sigmund Freud, Howard Gardner and many more, the search for an understanding of the learning-teaching process continues.
In the next few weeks, I will use this space to outline the ideas of the most prominent of these educational heavy-lifters on whose shoulders all educators in all demographics stand. They are worthy of acknowledgement.
“No adult can bear a child’s burden or grow up in his stead.” Maria Montessori.
Some were Behaviorists who see learning as a system of rewards. There are Cognitive theorists who stress the importance of thinking and memory. And Constructivists who believe that existing knowledge is improved as it is built up over time. Transformative theorists stress that learning is a constant change in our perspective.
All learning theorists have attempted to explain how humans, children especially, receive process, and retain knowledge in order to make meaning. They have all agreed that cognitive, emotional, and environmental factors play in to learning, as do our prior experiences as we learn to develop a world view. But learning theory is in itself subjective so, none are right, and none are wrong. Your world view determines which best practice you believe in most.
Which brings me to this: all learning theorists have made the same big assumption. It is this: All children can indeed learn. They make this assumption because it’s an obvious fact. Just by observing children we can conclude that children can learn. It’s so much of a given that, with the exception of Plato, these midwives-to-ideas all take it for granted that children come equipped with the capacity for high-order thought already baked-in. But they do not delve into that fact. They take it for granted. And with that as their first principle, they began theorizing, experimenting, and refining their methods of educating children.
Doesn’t it makes sense to explore these native learning skills. Can we even make sense of them? Yes, and I believe so.
Most importantly, they are a human birthright. To deprive someone of Learning is to take away that right. Next, Learning has clearly separated us from the rest of life on earth. That must make it a vital. Learning must be an adaptive skill. It just might be the engine of human evolution. Or it might be a transcendental gift.
So, when teaching or training, using whatever ethical best-practices you prefer, instead of just assuming the presence of these skills, take a quick look at Plato’s vison of the amazing toolkit all babies are born with, and see if it might alter how you teach, train, coach mentor, or parent..
Plato began his exploration of epistemology with the most fundamental question. How can a person learn something new when the topic is brand new? It’s obvious that we can. He answered that the knowledge of how to do that must be given to us at birth. In his words, it is “engraved on the soul.” A more modern, neo-platonic take might be that the reason children are born with the capacity to think is that their parents bequeathed that ability to them via DNA. It’s an evolutionary tactical advantage. The question as to where that ability originally appeared in our species is none of my business.
To understand this gift, you could also use this analogy to this learning agency we all share. The ‘Stored-Program Computer,’ is a 1936 theoretical paper submitted by Alan Turing. He proposed that without some form of machine-learning, software program previously loaded onto the computer hardware, any input coming from outside the hardware is inert. Pointless. Without instructions on what to do with it, inputs cannot be processed. It is not even data. Hence the invention of pre-loaded – stored – operating systems that brought the hardware to life. And some would argue deadened us a little.
Fortunately, we too have a stored program included with our Wetware. You know it as your capacity for Learning. Universally present at birth, it allows us to make sense of external inputs. And internal ones too. I call the components of our stored programs Hybrid Skills.
I hope this makes a case for focusing on the child’s inner hybrid skills, and encourages you to shift to a more learner or child centric best practice by providing them with every opportunity to polish these skills. Parents do this naturally. Why stop at school?
How can you help children unleash their stored programs so they can make better sense of themselves, their world, and others? Questioning. Questioning is the answer. It is questioning that fires up our stored program to begin thinking, and learning.
We are not focusing on polishing all eleven hybrid skills, we are urging mastery of only two: memorization and imitation. They have nine more.
Here is an example of how to unleash children’s potential using the Terego Ideation Method™. The video’s subject is “Why Does Math Matter?” But the subject could be anything, the method still works across all subjects and all ages.
Download your Terego Ideation Method™ Certification workbook and get started today. It’s FREE. It is a guaranteed way for anyone to Think Things Through Thoroughly. That way you can help futureproof anyone, children especially.
See Tim Seldin, President of the Montessori Foundation, explain why Maria Montessori would approve of the Terego Ideation Method™.
Thanks for reading, and please share with other teacher and parent friends.