Have you ever attended a seminar or class and been asked, "so what did you learn," only to have your mind go blank? If so, you passed the test for being a "normal learner." What's a normal learner? A student who forgets most of what they try to learn, even when they can temporarily recall, and use, what was taught. So what makes this happen to us? And what would we need to do in order to keep what we learn? These are the questions we'll explore in this chapter of What Kills the Love of Learning?
Does Doing Something Prove We Learned It?
So many ideas. So little time.
Would you believe this feeling was one of the main things which drove me to become a personality theorist? What exactly is a personality theorist? A person who studies the natural differences, and similarities, between any and all persons. One person at a time. One group of people at a time. And all people at a time.
Sound like a lot of work? It is. A lot of fun too. Given you have a personal reason for your hard work and mucking around. Which, of course, I do; I dream of finding a way to keep the love of learning alive in children.
Of course, if you really want to understand human nature, you also need the patience of a saint. Or at least, the patience of an old person.
Me. I've got the latter. I'm sixty this year.
How exactly do I go about doing this mucking around? Basically, I do it in two ways. One, I watch people like a hawk, mostly young children and families in public. Two, I ask people a lot of questions. Which is not too hard seeing as I work as a talk therapist, a profession I've been doing now for going on twenty years.
How do I come up with my questions? Mostly they occur to me when someone asks for my help. Which in my profession, happens a lot. For instance, recently, I've been doing a lot of work with people with Asperger's and ADD. Which has led me to ask myself if being able to do something proves we have learned it. Many people think it does. Does it though? My honest opinion? Not really. And while doing something does prove you can do it, at the same time, we all do things at times and later cannot recall how we did them.
How can we know for certain then if we have personally acquired some specific learning?
To begin with, let's focus this question on children and learning. The question then becomes, how can you know for certain if a child has personally acquired some specific learning? The answer. You have to know to what degree this learning remains intact once the child leaves the classroom.
For instance, say we are talking about one of the brighter kids in a sixth grade science class. Let's also say this child just passed his final exam with flying colors. With a close to perfect grade in fact. The thing is, we don't know for sure how long this child will remain able to pass this test. Let alone how well he'd do. For instance, how well do you think this child would do on this same test one week later? One month later? One year later? How about if this child had to take this test without first studying. How well do you think he would do then?
Are you beginning to get my drift?
You see, the thing is, being in the momentum of learning, which is where this boy was when he took his final exam, is not the same thing as having this learning emerge in you. Not even close. Why not? Mainly because of the problem I mentioned in my opening. That there's a big difference between being in the momentum of a classroom and having this learning be accessible to you years later. What is difference? The first learning is Momentum Learning. It lasts only as long as the child remains in the momentum. The second learning is Emergent Learning. This learning last for a lifetime.
Is what I'm saying even a valid criticism though? Isn't it normal for us to forget most of what we learn in school?
Yes. It is normal. Then again, what does it mean that this is out norm? Doesn't it mean we mostly lie to ourselves as far as how much we have learned?
Here then is arguably the most important question a book on learning could ever ask. "To what degree is it true that being able to do something proves we have learned it? I believe that being able to do something may more prove we are still in the momentum of having been recently been exposed to it than that it proves we have actually learned anything.
What about what my friend Colleen recently told me though? Colleen is a teacher with many years experience. And two Masters degrees. The thing is, recently she was taught that the proof of learning includes being able to do something in a variety of ways. Is this the proof we have learned something then?
Even here, more times than not, this test is nothing more than way to a measure the degree to which a child is still in the momentum of the classroom. And to be more technically correct, in the momentum of someone else's learning. Mainly their teacher's learning.
How about when you can create new things with what you learn? Does this qualify as a valid test for having learned something?
Not really. Why not? Because creativity does not prove we have learned anything. I know. I frequently create things in areas I've never even studied. Thus, what I create is more a function of that I am creative and have a high IQ than that I am doing something with what I have learned.
Don't my IQ and creative talents invalidate the test though?
Again. Not really. You see babies have high IQs and mucho creative talents. And they constantly do things they have yet to learn. And genuinely learn from doing this. How can I tell? Because babies can do far more with what they learn than pass tests and use what they learn in a variety of ways. More than creating things with what they learn too. What more do they do?
It's simple really. They can love what they learn. And do. Thus this is the real test for having learned something. You love what you learned and can't get enough of it. Which is why babies, and young kids, so love creating things with what they discover. And want to explore it more. And show it to you.
Not sure what I'm getting at?
The thing is, this book is mostly about how school aged kids learn and do not learn. And how we could be helping these kids not to lose their love of learning. A love which dies in most kids by the end of kindergarten or first grade. Which makes me wonder if this is why we seem to have so few kids in schools who get labeled as geniuses and creative talents. Are all babies geniuses and when their love of learning dies, so does their creative genius?
Here then are a few of the questions we'll be exploring throughout this book. What is the nature of true learning? Where does genius go? And to what degree is permanence a test for true learning?
What do I think true learning is like?
Is there something you can vividly remember learning? If so, then chances are this is something you have truly learned, momentum or no momentum. Even here, the proof of learning requires you feel at least four experiential qualities.
What about momentum learning? What is momentum learning like?
How much of what we think we know is Momentum Learning? I would guess it is in the neighborhood of 94 to 99 percent. Even here, I am probably grossly over estimating how much we actually learn.
Does this sound a bit negative? Perhaps, it is. Even so, if what I'm saying it true then the lack of permanence in learning may be one of the most important clues we have to what is wrong in our present educational system. Moreover, if we ever want to improve the way we educate our children, we must address this flaw in our system or doom our efforts to failure.
What can we do to address this problem then? Actually, there are a lot of things we could do. Hopefully, you'll find some of them here, in this book. Beginning with the simplest of simple ideas; that real solutions to our problems come from asking the right questions. What is the true test for learning is one of these questions. And is there a way for us to help our kids to keep their genius?
As for solutions, dividing what our children learn into temporary and permanent learning is a good step toward a solution. After all, our children deserve more than just a temporary education. Don't you agree.