Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Enforced Independence/Learned Helplessness

So this week in Rhizo#14 (Rhizomatic Learning) we've been asked to discuss Enforced Independence or what happens when we give people the opportunity to make educational choices in what they choose to learn, how they approach tasks and complete/not complete the given task. Dave said, "Once you give people freedom it's hard to take it back." To me, the question also seems to be "how to get people to reflect about the education system as a whole." Lately I think the education system is more about teaching learned helplessness than teaching independence.

So this is the starting point: Dave Cormier's video

There are so many good ideas to discuss in this vlog it's hard to know where to start. I found myself nodding my head as I watched the video. So many of his observations are in tandem with the way I view the education system. Here to me is the meat of the discussion. I've paraphrased what Dave has said.

"They need to be independent , they need to be responsible for their own learning. They need to be able to self assess and self re-mediate. They need to ask, "I don't know how to do this. I am going to figure it out.
I don't know what this is. I am going to find out what it is." So they can participate in a community.
You can't have any type of freedom unless you're independent enough to do those tasks."

"We have crushed that out of our education system."

We, as educators, take small children, whose conversation can be summed up with "why, what, how, etc." and Dave's question of "I don't know how to do this. I don't know what this is. I am going to find out what it is," and knock it out of them so that we can add it back at a later date. And then we wonder why it's so hard to do this. We, as participants in the current system, help create learners who are helpless, incapable of exercising their curiosity and afraid to ask questions and explore. This is why some elementary teachers are now focusing on issues of self regulation in the class. And students turn around when you do this. But it's not enough to hand kids back the ability to regulate their physical bodies (though the idea of having a classroom of 7 year olds glued to their chair all day never made sense to me.) What about what they want to learn? Genius Hour is one example of allowing students freedom from the curriculum. And students learn to self assess and self re-mediate. How to ask good questions and find resources.

And isn't that really what our job as teachers, parents and mentors are? To be able to show children how to do something and then stand back and watch them learn?

So the real question we need to ask is, what are we afraid of when we hand over the task of learning to the learner?