What is education for?
Education is a human right and cornerstone of every developed welfare society. But, as we might notice, situations around the world vary a lot, from cutting investments to empowering the sector of education. Increasingly, it seems that the countries that have lifted their welfare are decreasing their investments in education. But, on the other hand, the developing world sees education as a tool to increase its competitiveness in the global market.
Global changes and needs have shown and even forced us to rethink the role of education. We all can agree that the role of education has changed from its most straightforward form of seeing the educational centers being laboratories where the behaviorist approach has been leading the theory of approaching teaching and learning. We are also far behind the stage where the disconnected contexts are taught without connection to the daily operations. Instead, we have been quite a while on the phase where schools and especially teachers should have been assisting students in developing an inner compass with the broad toolkits that allow them to navigate through complex and flexible future networks.
Teachers and schools are in the leading position when we discuss creating sustainable and long-lasting environments where situation-based mentality will be shifted to a more open-minded and universal mood. The Time for an old-fashioned way to see schools as a place where information is transferred from teachers to the students while creating solid robots who can repeat and mimic learned strategies should be discarded and forbidden. What is the point of AI if we cannot distinguish ourselves from it? We are humans, and we need to use and invest in our unique capabilities, like building social capital at any stage and place in the world. Based on these thoughts, it's easy to agree that the most commonly used approach where every student in the class should learn the same content and complete the same tasks is impossible and not needed.
During pedagogical training that I have been conducting or attending, the two questions have always been raised "What is it that I need to do?" and "How is it possible to find a time when students still need to learn context and then there is a need for grading each one of them?". Fair enough, we have limited time in schools, and there are differences between the grade expectations and roles. Unfortunately, I need to disappoint you because we will never have a chance to have enough time. It was interesting to find out that time is the topic in the systems we have in Finland, where most of us don't have a total staff-time model. Like in Qatar, every teacher was in the workplace from 7.30 to 15.00 no matter the actual teaching lessons you had that day. The main topic was still circulating around the lack of time and teachers' inadequacy. The same issue about lack of time has also constantly occurred in every school- model, from onsite to online models. Like Pekka Peura has brought up, "The lack of time is an illusion that we create."
Enough of the rhetoric and more about how to create a strong foundation for the environment where students will be seen as unique and original individuals. For your notice, I will bring my practices in future blogs based on presented ideas. One of the most critical adjustments we should make at the beginning is shifting our way of thinking about what we need to teach and what students need to learn. Are we going with the how-to learn skills mindset or the knowledge and information approach? This is why I encourage everyone to teach without books or any other guided materials for a short period. If you are a language teacher, do you need a book to tell you how and in what order to start to teach foreign languages? This experiment will show how easily we can become book followers and try to put every student in the same mole even though great books and guided materials are available. It will also ease your workload when students connect while creating and suggesting topics for your lessons and, most importantly, explore the world of opportunities. You might also get more enthusiastic students on your next lesson because you gave them the chance to be in charge. Share your power to those who will become leaders of their own learning, and you will see how positively giving a short piece of autonomy will affect your class.
The behavioristic approach, which has been chiefly used in the traditional classroom, has been lately receiving justified criticisms because of its narrow approach to understanding human behavior and not taking the social environment into account. Still, behaviorists like J. Watson, B.F Skinner, and I. Pavlov were not cheap shots. Because we are humans who, in principle, like to mimic others, especially successful ones, it easily shows that we also learn by the stimuli provided by the environment. Following these examples, we can confidently say that the behavioristic approach will always have a place in teaching and learning if thought carefully and implemented in the proper context. Writers of the books "Atomic Habits" and "The Power of Habit," James Clear and Charles Duhigg show that successful and not unsuccessful people usually have the same goals and the most significant differences showed up in their habits and environments they live. Showing examples while giving students the freedom to affect the situation is a good recipe while transforming the more dynamic learning environment. Class and prevalent working culture are something that educators can influence by guidance and being in charge of the atmosphere. It's easy to remember why taking students into a process is crucial because a lone wolf dies, but the pack survives.
One concrete and easy to apply strategy when you and your students reform the existing mindset is changing the language you use daily from "I have to ..." to " I get to ...". For example, I am grateful that I have dogs, and I get to go for a walk every morning at 5.30 am no matter the weather. During my morning walks, I can do my breathing exercise, listen to a bit of podcast, and reflect on my work. After that mourning routine, I feel energized and overall a better person. All of us have some habits and routines because, without them, we couldn't function. Next time, just think a little bit wider, and you will find that with your habits, you can full fill your potential or, contrary, downgrade your chances. It might sound too naive, but I still remember my first university module where the professor said that whenever you want to say, "Don't do it ..." try to rephrase it in a more positive and explaining way to avoid negativity. It became a habit for me, and whenever I or someone else prohibit the student from doing something in this hard and cold way, it brings me back to the first lecture on the basics of pedagogy. These small changes highlight better the benefits of learning and, above all, promotes more open-minded culture in your class. Remember that changing the mindset takes time, so don't hesitate to give your students time and opportunities to feel autonomy, even if it's sometimes more an illusion.
Ps. One of the new students in my class proved again that you can learn almost anything if you have motivation, no matter the obstacles you might face. This student has not attended school for nearly three years and has been diagnosed with severe learning difficulties. During the basic conversation, he mentioned that he likes history and has been studying it by himself. While I was trying to figure out his motivation and asked his sources, he said Wikipedia in English. One word led to another, and I found that his English is above the average of his grade-level expectations. After our conversation, I rechecked his previous learning plans and grades, especially his English language comments. Surprisingly, I found out that the comments were written about the student, and his skills were quite damaging or downgraded his learning skills. So I think it wasn't a big surprise why the student mentioned that his teacher is the Internet and not the teacher in the class. Let's see how well I will be able to boost this student's motivation. I am again happy to welcome you to take this journey with me, and if you find this content interesting, just drop your comment or share this post with your network! For the next time,