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I always thought that answers were important. It took me a few years into my teaching career before I realised that ‘what’ I taught my students wasn’t half as important as ‘how’ they approached their learning.
When I only had 9 weeks to teach a history unit on the Renaissance, the emphasis had to be on metacognition; understanding our own thought processes. My students might pick up some interesting information, or have their interest sparked about some fact, but what was most important was helping them to learn how to learn; how to find relevant information, determining a reliable source, recognising bias, asking questions, forming and testing hypotheses and articulating a point of view.
These learning skills needed to be the focus of every lesson; the content was simply the vessel.
Now that I am homeschooling Jack and Sarah, my approach remains the same; learning and thinking skills first, content second.
So how do we emphasis those important learning skills without focussing too heavily on content?
Do we sit back and a let them explore?
How much input does the adult have in the child’s learning?
Carla Rinaldi says it best:
Our children guide us. But we are partners in their learning. We don’t answer their questions; for answering their questions denies them the opportunity to discover it for themselves.
We help them to grow in their learning by looking for the answers together. It is not a one-way street of information flowing from the adult to the child. It is circular, a partnership; flowing seamlessly between us, each of us asking questions, searching for answers – learning how to learn.
The adult has a crucial part in the learning process; we are a sounding board, we offer suggestions, we ask questions, we listen, we help make plans, we provide resources, we keep momentum going when needed, we teach them how to find information, we value their opinions and suggestions and we support their ideas. The adult has a very important role.
This is real learning; focussing on the process not the answers. For when our children know how to learn, the ‘what to learn’ is limitless.
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