Leading learning in Schools through elements of Learning

Vandana Saxena

Principal, Tribune Model School, Chandigarh

The science of learning unfolds the many mysteries hidden in the process of learning. Each one learns differently but what is common is that all learning is a series of success and failure. We try, we fail, and we gain and redesign and rethink strategies and try again. Learning is best understood by observing a toddler taking her first steps. She stumbles and falls yet learns to walk at her own pace. No amount of outside support in the form of walkers will make the process faster. If at all, keeping the home environment peaceful, happy and nurturing the child’s health can help reach this milestone smoothly. Learning is complimentary to this process of learning to walk, which though inherent still needs a conducive environment.

While in a classroom situation we are facilitators of teaching and learning. We can at best provide elements of leaning within the class, which encourage the inherent ability and tendency of a child to learn in every possible situation. The role of questions can never be undermined in enhancing learning. A student led class where students are free to question and in fact is joyful in questioning and attempting answers will always be rich in learning experiences. Small prompts in the form of simple questions can lead learning to new unknown territories. Knowledge that has been unfolded today must have been done through some one who was very curious and did not hesitate to say that I don't know but would love it if someone answered my questions and helped me learn.

Simultaneously we must as educators keep our focus on a child’s will to learn. It’s well said that you can take the horse to the water but can’t force it to drink. Much has been said about the reluctance of a child to learn, this reluctance is a complex situation and needs personal attention of the teacher. It may be a behavioural problem, a poor health condition, disharmony at home, personal fear or anxiety or a learning disability. If the vision of every educator were to help every child succeed in every situation the reluctance can be tackled depending on the need of the child. A school must create systems to monitor the process set for giving personalized instruction to each child. That's where instructional leadership plays an important role.

Providing space for students to fail and not be pretentious about knowing it all will remove a child’s fear of learning. Project based learning or engaging with children through activities or experiments stimulates a child’s desire to learn. The flip side is that as educators we are in a hurry to disclose the right answer to the child rather than wait for her to discover it at her own pace through questioning. The coverage of syllabus is the biggest enemy of learning in such cases. What one must focus on is that teaching the learning skill is far more important than rote memory operations in a child’s mind. Say for example if one demonstrated or covered one part of a the syllabus slowly and after connecting with children within class we would have ignited a child’s curiosity and the will to learn which in itself turns children into sponges who are ready to absorb quickly. After that uncovering the syllabus becomes a cakewalk.

Art and technology are two powerful tools that open a child’s mind to learning. While keeping the imagination and creativity alive they also harness the child’s competence in problem solving and critical thinking. Art education should provide a platform for children to create beauty around themselves, which then translates into positive inputs for learning. Similarly the role of technology in education today through its various innovations has opened a totally new era in learning. The classical duality that haunts every element of learning is the depth in which the element is used and not as a means to an end.

Much as learning is an internal process within a child its outward manifestation in the form of behavioural outcomes need to be monitored carefully and cautiously. Its also here the role of simple tools of technology comes in handy to provide short checkpoints to monitor the progress in learning. If we as educators were to create schools as systems of learning, the simplicity of the initial learning process will preserve the joy in learning while elevating it to territories unknown.

Much as the 21st century schools has blossomed in infrastructure and other frills and fancy, the central focus needs to be the very process of learning along with the learners. The elements of learning form the core of the quality and excellence in education and hence need attention at all times.

Vandana Saxena

Principal, Tribune Model School, Chandigarh