Thursday, November 24, 2005

differences in learning

It's a real problem for lots of people: the way they learn is not the same as the way they are expected to learn. Someone has a perceptual difficulty.

For systems, it is difficult to perceive and adjust to individual difference. It is easy to pick on the education system. Often, the system we are picking on is based on our own memories of school: we are critical twenty or thirty years after the fact. Schools today are different: different not only from schools of the past but also from one another. Some are better than others; some are more expensive than others; some are just different.

We learn all the time: everything we say or do results in feedback that teaches us what patterns to expect in the future. This is not a matter of chance or of choice: it is simply what it means to be human. What we mean most often when we talk about learning is a variation of this general experience that occurs, most profoundly, between two human beings. We label one a "teacher" and one a "student" and that is accurate as long as we understand that both the teacher and the student are learners who share an experience of learning. At its best, this is an experience where the teacher and student learn through connection: their connection with each other and the connections they draw between content and context.

Notice that there is no such thing as difference in learning if the contract between the teacher and the student is that the teacher will identify the way the student learns and provide a context through which that will become the optimal way to learn the content. Put another way, if it is my job as teacher to respond to what you as student are learning, then I do not notice 'problems:' instead I notice feedback that means I need to adjust in order to learn with you.

Think about the teachers, formal and informal, who have had the biggest influence on your learning. Do you remember what they taught you? Do you remember the quality of the connection that allowed you to learn with them?

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