The New Pedagogy – Learnership

In my last post I coined a term called learnership which I don’t believe has been used before but came to me as a way of expressing educational leadership combined with educators needing to show learners how to learn, thus learnership.

“We cannot do things the same way.” was said to me by a veteran teacher who is seeing how technology can change learning. Mind you, this has come after one foray into using the power of the Web to change student productivity and learning. She sees the value of losing old pedagogical schemes in light of new ones but would not have come to this conclusion on her own had I not been there to coach her and learn with her. This gets to a specific point Michael Fullan is making in his book Stratosphere. Education needs expert learners to be expert leaders leading student how to become an expert learner. Educators are to be the experts in both – leading to learn and learning to lead.

The next few years, perhaps five, will prove how well teachers can help their students become and expert learner. The goal is to guide, or shape, how they think about learning so that when a student is faced with a novel learning experience, they know how to go about it vs. floundering about without a direction.

Learnership is the new pedagogy, it is cutting edge. It takes away the need to know everything to become a servant leader – one who shows how to do something alongside the other person. In this case learnership.

What makes learnership the new pedagogy? First, it shifts the role of teacher to role of guide, or facilitator, and as a guide the teacher also learns along the way. No guide I know of knows absolutely everything. I do know that guides point out what to look for. Here I think of walking in a museum where the guide points out the art, the techniques and the style. However, someone accustomed to a particular artist, or period, may know more than the guide. Mutual learning can take place. Learnership requires deeper, current pedagogical knowledge about how students learn. One size does not fit all, and in a coming age of customized learning (thanks to technology), teachers must know how to reach individual students in a myriad of ways. This may be a blended learning model, 1:1, PBL, or other form. What matters is the teacher’s ability to use sound pedagogy concomitant with technology. Finally, leanership is empathy driven. The educator approaches learning from the learner’s perspective as a student centered approach. Empathy puts teachers in the state of mind “I’ve been there before” which helps to facilitate positive learning, learning that excites students to want more.

Learnership puts teachers at the crossroads of pedagogy, technology, inquiry and empathy creating powerful learning experiences.

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Meaty learning as learnership

Meatiness – the degree to which something deepens or accentuates an experience.  For example, the meatiness of discussion relies on the depth of knowledge each person(s) has about the topic.  Or, a class is meaty because it gives so much to think about. We need meaty learners, learners who can identify their passions and learn about them.  What is this kind of learning and what is it not? Let’s start with what it is not.  It is not sitting in a lecture or presentation.  It is not having a teacher download information to students as they listen passively information interaction other than to take notes.  It is not listening to a webinar.

Meaty learning is when the learner is immersed in the curriculum being coached how to learn content and demonstrate what is learned (curriculum is different than standards).  Contextually, the learner’s atmosphere drives him/her to ask questions and inquire about how the content adds relevancy to their life.  Inquiry – asking questions and answering boy learningthem, or solving problems – is meaty because the learner is choosing to delve deeper into the curriculum through their own lens. Connections between ideas, concepts, and generalizations are made bridging new learning synapses. The teacher in this kind of learning loses authorship giving it up for learnership.  Learnership is learning with students facilitating “learning how to learn”.  The student guides this auto-biographical experience  as problems are solved, questions are asked and answered, and learning products are created with the teacher being nearby as the guide.  No longer is there teaching in its original sense but transformed to guide individual learners to their own original thoughts and ideas expressed in a variety of ways.  Students learn the content and teacher is the guide.  ICT gives learners multiple paths to learn and express their learning – a beauty of technology.  Teachers are now the new learner – the kind of learner that learns alongside students. Meaningful interaction, or facilitation, with students is the glue in the classroom.  Teachers and students lose the classification of “student” and “teacher” to an encompassing category of “learner” because there is the atmosphere of learnership all love and desire.  This desire is the meaty learning as meatiness in the classroom for each person wants to grow.

Meaty teaching is learnership where the teacher is both learner and leader in the love of learning.

photo credit: World Bank Photo Collection via photopin cc

Relevant learning experiences

I just had a conversation with a teacher in which the fundamental question that has to be asked and answered is:  How do students engage in relevant learning experiences?  We already know the answer.

Compulsory learning does nothing for the student.  In fact, it demeans the entire goal of learning and the intrinsic motivation to do so.  Going through my preservice teaching classes, much discussion revolved around intrinsic vs. extrinsic motivation to learn.  Extrinsic, from my point of view, learning is achieved when I give a student a reward – candy, bookmark, computer time.  Intrinsic motivation is learning because the student is compelled to do so.  To compel a student to learn means the learning experience is not contrived.

Contrived learning is the lesson plan that structures every step of what to learn and how to learn it.  The teacher, knowing the easy path is giving the student everything they need to learn, writes down the steps to be followed.  Students know they are not really learning.  As I frequently reiterate to myself, learning is messy.  At times there is a straight forward process to learning though, more often than not, there is no process, no steps to follow, and certainly no plan.

Real world learning is the only way we will get students to remain engaged but this means a shift in teaching.  The shift is from teacher centered to student centered.  Many claim to be student centered in planning, teaching, and assessing, but the reality is that we, as teachers, do what is easiest.  It is easy to lecture, use the teacher manual, use online textbook resources, and download content.  However, we already know that the degree to which the content is learned is much deeper than traditional teaching models.  The same mantra is repeated in spite of this and that is there is too much content to cover and little time to teach all of it.  We cannot call downloading of content teaching.  We can call it a speech with information but no student is really engaged as a teacher speaks to class for an entire period.  Teaching would involve inquiry by asking important questions to solve real life problems today, and not just creating the presentation that show regurgitated content.

We already know the answer to high quality teaching, it is transforming ourselves to do it.