We are born and we die, and in between we live a life cycle where we learn stuff to ensure the longevity and the quality of our survival between the above mentioned vital milestones. Learning starts as early as life and ends only when we die. And in seldom cases, learning goes on even after we die (if we donate our cadavers to medical students where they are the ones who do the learning). That’s one of the reasons why learning is so crucial!
Before we begin to learn any of the serious stuff, we activate our built-in reflexes that ensure our survival as babies, like sucking, swallowing, grasping and crawling. That’s basically how babies can breathe, eat and drink and move (crawl) to their mother’s breasts when placed on their stomachs to hold (grasp) the organic milk dispenser and get (suck and swallow) the milk flowing without needing an external instructor, a whiteboard or any homework.
Then, we develop (or can we say learn here?) more complex reflexes, which are basically motor reflexes acquired by repetitive responses like what chain of actions we follow after learning how to ride a bike, or how we jam the brakes when we see an object on our path while speeding. Why we don’t actually think of hitting the brakes rather than just doing it, is what makes this, a reflex. Just think about walking! It would be insane to think about the every step you take; left foot forward, right foot forward… heels first upon contacting the ground, toes springing upward upon leaving the ground…
Weirdly enough, most of the time, we don’t have a recollection of the learning processes that we have mastered and became reflexes, like walking. Perhaps it is so, as the learning process took a long time ago and we tend to have little to less memories of our infancy… or perhaps we have undergone a completely different learning process which is way different from how we are taught in traditional schools following outdated norms that have not changed for ages.
Imagine a classroom of 20 or so infants, each having a different cultural background, interest, motivation and tiny, little distractions crawling next to each other… and just one teacher battling to do her job; trying to teach to the middle ground by putting on educative, audiovisual material on play before the students are saved by the bell they have been longing for.
Perhaps, we should find ways to transform learning into a reflex!
On a personal level, what we intend to learn must be turned into fun, we should also ditch our fears of failure and lose our prejudices for an effective learning process.
But, what can be done on a global level?
Learning has to be in the most natural way possible, so we may consider…
… getting rid of prison-cell feeling indoor classrooms with badly styled furniture, as they are not usually comfy enough to keep students focused on the subject matter…
… keeping lesson duration to what’s in focus and shorten or lengthen the duration accordingly. Besides, students lose focus after a certain time…
… having a smaller number of students grouped by their learning styles. It doesn’t take 15 people to change a light-bulb, but somehow educators seem to be expecting the exact outcome. Having less and like-minded students will provide them equal opportunities to actually learn something…
… encouraging students to ask questions. The current education system fails at this as younger students, cooped up in with indifferent peers, often refrain from asking anything, afraid their friends will make fun of them and older students are mostly lectured in giant halls with 100+ other people, where education is always on a tight schedule…
… losing the concept of daily homework, or at least modifying it greatly. As working adults, the happiest and the most productive times at work are when we don’t stay overtime or bring work to home. Think about bringing work home every single day!
… finding alternative ways of rewarding and grading students. In real life, we don’t get grades on our acquired reflexes like walking, etc…
… rewarding creative thinking, questioning and such skills, not having students memorize and copy-paste what the textbook says… Originality denies copy-pasting!
In real life, we can learn a foreign language better when we travel to the target country and immerse with the culture…and weirdly enough what is taught and what is natural can be completely different:
Which line is better when we order a cup of coffee in a cafe abroad?
“Excuse me! I would like to have a cup of coffee, please.” (What is taught)
“Hello! Coffee, please.” (What people actually say)
We can learn about basic math better when we start using money, rather than adding up, subtracting, multiplying or dividing insignificant numbers…
Look at the math problem below that a young student may encounter at school:
“Carol has five eggs and she gives 2 of them to her friend Pedro. How many eggs does Carol have now?”
Math problems at current schools like the one above never work for most students like I was, as I cannot stop myself from trying to figure out other questions unrelated and irrelevant to the real problem such as…
Who are Carol and Pedro?
Why does Carol have eggs in the first place?
Why does she give two to Pedro?
Are they close friends or not?
What will Pedro do with the two eggs he now possesses?
(Perhaps, I am the odd one out here as I have never given or received any eggs from a friend before).
We can learn about world geography better when we start visiting different countries and learning from the source…
We can learn about history better by visiting historical sites rather than reading about them in a textbook accompanied with a crappy image…
We can learn about psychology better by interacting with people, and just by listening to them (assuming they would do the same)…
We can learn about biology better by spending some time on farms or by going camping…
We can learn everything better if we live through it! And repetitive, personal experience is what transforms an action into a reflex!
If you think the above methods require loads of money, just think about how much each country annually spends on the outdated education system that doesn’t really teach.
One thought on “Transforming Education into a Reflex”
Agree. Your questions about the Math problem are the best!!!!
Let me tell you an anecdote about it :
A little girl is examined by the school psychologist who considers that the little doesn’t know how to count as she should. She’s 3 years old. The expert psycho shows her three toys (a doll, a teddy bear and a ball) and says ” look, Cindy, how many toys do I have?” The little, extending her small hands to the doll, answer:” TWO!” The psychologist sentences “this girl is not normal, she can’t count even to three!!” The mother is worried and the little is happy, she’s grabbed the cute doll and says smiling:” Cindys’doll”.
A simple math problem or a school alien to the students?
The exemple is real, as you can suppose.
When i started to teach, the classe was another home: plants, aquarium, terrarium, microscopes, small armchairs with cushions, many different books, paintings,music, different small spaces (“corners”) where children could carry out different activities freely chosen. A place to live and learn by playing and inteacting with others and the environment. One day, someone discovered snail eggs in the terrarium or a guppy courting a female in the aquarium and we learned about the reproduction. Another day, a plant had become yellow and we discovered what thing is the photosinthesy or what the pollination is and the rol of the insects. We could observe an amobeae and talk about the life and the evolution, or listen to Golden Variations and learn about Bach, or discover the colors, painting and talking about Klee, Kandinsky, expressing the own emotions.
Everything is possible when to learn and to teach are a passion. And every brind can show its shine. That’s the school i believe in.
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