is a natural process, like breathing in and out. We do it all
the time, but don't realize it because it is unconscious, easy,
and part of our daily lives. However, if we asked you to describe
a recent attempt to learn something new-perhaps a new computer
program or how to change the oil in your car-it's quite possible
you would describe at least part of the process as hard work or
frustrating. Why the disparity? Perhaps we have come to think
of learning something new as work, while exploring a new interest
is fun. Learning can be challenging, especially if in an area
that is unfamiliar terrain or just doesn't make sense.
However, it is the premise of innovative educators like Peter
Kline that each of us is an "everyday genius," that we have a
great capacity to learn. The key to unlocking that capacity is
to create an environment that supports discovery and allows us
to enjoy learning because our natural talents are being used more
of the best ways to understand how we learn is to observe infants
and young children. Kline describes the process in this way:
Born with a mental structure that organizes the sounds of spoken
words into complex grammatical forms, the child builds a language
without anyone's instruction. All he needs is to listen to these
sounds and then try them out...We came into the world instinctively
prepared to do two things. One was to suck nourishment from our
mother's breasts. To accomplish this we used our sucking instinct.
The other was to do everything else. To accomplish this we used
our learning instinct.
we watch children interact with their world, their entire experience
is one of learning-through tasting, smelling, crawling, handling,
talking and listening. They are totally engaged in this exploring.
As we grow up and attend school, many of our ways of gathering
information are taken away. We are told to sit still, be quiet,
stop daydreaming, not to doodle and pay attention. For the child
who learns best by moving around, we have taken away his or her
primary mode of learning. For the interactive learner who needs
to talk about ideas to understand them, we have taken away the
ability to integrate information.
For the child who understands best by drawing diagrams and symbols,
she or he loses that most vital tool. Although music is used to
teach the ABC's in elementary school, it is considered too childish
to use in the higher grades. Before we know it, learning becomes
boring or school becomes a challenge to meet without our full
sot of tools. The joy is gone.
School programs and educational techniques reflect our western
values which elevate science, math, and logical achievement above
success in the arts and human relations fields. Schools teach
most effectively to those with strong language and logical thinking
skills. If you were successful in school, you arc probably strong
in these areas. Yet your learner may not be. Those who learn differently
are often misunderstood, neglected, or undeserved by our educational
Studies of the brain have shown that we need to move, sing, dance,
draw, talk, and reflect to learn effectively. So the first thing
we need to let go of is the expectation that there is one "right"
way to learn or teach. Secondly, we need to let go of the expectation
that our learners will be most successful if they use the same
strategies that worked for us. Diversity is the key.
let your tutoring be a discovery process. Find out what excites
you. Find out what excites your learner. Work together to create
lessons. Your learner will often know better than you what works
for him or her This can make the entire process interesting and
Studies of exceptional learners and "geniuses" have provided clues
on how to improve our learning process. These findings have been
used to develop strategies for successful learning. Research has
shown that geniuses:
See more, take in, and process more stimuli
Make a wide variety of associations
Have the ability to think rapidly
See the nonevident as well as the evident
Think independently, engage in self-reflection
Have a sense of well-being
How do we create an environment that allows our "natural genius"
to blossom? That is the challenge for both tutor and learner.
One of the first things we can do is recognize our different
ways of learning.
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