Archives: learning

The Need for Disagreement and Alternative Perspectives

As human beings, we all feel happy and fulfilled when we find others who agree with our point of view on issues and topics. If we write an article or give a speech and someone praises us for it, it is a wonderful feeling. We all love to hear for others to tell us how good we are, how great our speech was, or how awesome an article that we wrote was. Perhaps, one can argue that we are wired to want “yes men” around us.

 

Yet, the path to growth and development does not exist without disagreeing points of view to ours. Nobody grows if his present perspective or point of view isn’t challenged – either by himself or by others. Yes; we learn, grow and develop when others are able to disagree with us, question our point of view, and/or present alternative perspectives to those that we hold and live by.

 

Many of the discoveries, inventions and innovations that have brought huge benefits to us were possible because of alternative perspectives. Sometimes those perspectives came by accident (Isaac Newton and the apple). Sometimes we got them after intense debates that took years (the shape of the earth).

 

It isn’t always comfortable when we have our long-held beliefs questioned. It sometimes grates to have our authority questioned. Yet, without constant questioning, we would make no progress. We would stand on one spot, year in, year out. This is why disagreements and alternative perspectives are vital to learning and to education. Students should be allowed the freedom to question and to disagree. In order to develop the brightest of minds, students need the freedom to propose and push alternative perspectives to issues and problems. It is how we got this far. It is how we will make all the progress that humanity has in store for it in the future.

LEARNING SHOULD BE FUN

As adults, we may have been conditioned to believe that education and a serious face are inseparable. After all, learning how to get serious is a key part of growing up; right? Or so we are told. Yet, it has been proven again and again that the more fun even adults have at something, the easier they are likely to find doing it and the better they are likely to become at it. If that applies to adults, perhaps we need to review how we teach children and young adults.

Learning can be fun. Learning should be fun. We need a paradigm change. That someone is having fun at something shouldn’t mean that they are not learning or that they are unserious about their studies or work. Many people went through school without any inkling that learning does not have to be drudgery and uninteresting. For most, schooling was painful and something that they couldn’t wait to get away from. But if we make learning fun, there is no reason why anyone should want to run away from it.

  • The teacher ought to have fun teaching. How effective can a teacher, trainer or instructor be if they do not enjoy what they do? Do we really want to entrust the training of our children to people who do not enjoy teaching them?
  • The pupils and students ought to have fun learning. When they find their studies and classrooms fun, we will hardly ever have to chase them around and be able to spend our energies to more productive tasks and experiences. They will read and learn of their own accord more than ever.
  • At every tier of the educational system should be an air of fun. From the policy makers to administrators, the idea of learning being fun should be imprinted from the very start or else it won’t work.

Usually, we reserve learning as fun (or is it fun as learning now) for nursery and pre-school children. We expect that after that, learning should be sober and serious. While there is some sense in which that is true, what happens usually is that we squeeze out all the fun from that point on. A grave mistake. Make leaning fun and watch as more knowledge goes round.

DO NOT STIFLE CURIOSITY

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“Curiosity killed the cat”, is an old saying. It is used to caution people who let curiosity get the better of them. Here in Nigeria, our society is not traditionally encouraging of people who get curious. People are encouraged to stay with the lakes and the rivers that they know and are used to. As for the things that are strange or appear to have no explanation, we label them “dark” or “evil”. The evil forest. The dark river. The general attitude towards these things is that of keeping off. Don’t be curios; keep off and stay safe.

Yet, curiosity is a great driving force in learning. Whether it s Isaac Newton, some other great inventor, or the everyday person who discovers some new phenomenon or brings new ideas about how to do things, we will find that curiosity is key. So, an apple fell off a tree. Why not pick it up, clean it, eat and go on with your life? But curiosity asked why. Why did this fall from the tree? Why do apples and indeed all fruit fall to the ground? And thus began a quest for knowledge that has resulted in a discovery that has become one of the foundations for physics.

The question, Why? It has siblings like How? When? Where? What? In multiple fields around the world, students, teachers and practitioners keep asking these questions. It is the way forward. Curiosity is key to learning and should be encouraged.

Why does this stream have two outlets, and how is it that one outlet brings out cool water and the other warm? Questions. What can be done with this phenomenon? More questions. While curiosity may have killed the cat in that old story, it is because of curiosity that human civilization makes progress. It is how we learn best. When we go hunting out information and solutions for ourselves because we need convincing and because we need answers, we are at our best in the learning curve.

HELP YOUR CHILD DEVELOP COGNITIVE SKILLS

Cognitive skills are how children assimilate, process and understand information that come their way. Cognitive skills include problem solving, creativity, imagination and memory. These are skills very vital to their personal development and education. The question now is, How can we help our children develop these skills?New Picture

The following list isn’t exhaustive, but gives a few pointers that everyone can follow. One key thing about all of the pointers is the need to give the child time and attention.

  1. Tell stories to your child or read to them. Story telling is an age-long way of stimulating the minds of children. Tell your children stories, be they fiction or your own real life experiences of years back. First Veritas “Grade Readers” features a wide range of interesting and educative stories for children in Level 1-6.
  2. Ask specific questions. This can be done in combination with story telling (in which case, you are asking to see how well they comprehend what they have heard), or it can be done as a standalone exercise. A TV show or DVD might be playing, and you interrupt to ask about something just mentioned or visualised.
  3. Explain simple concepts and items to them. Explain how a car works in the most basic terms. Or how a TV works. Stimulate their curiosity.
  4. Find them mind developing games to play. While it is okay for children to engage in physical exercise, which is vital for their physical development, likewise mind games will help develop their mental faculties. Games like Puzzles, Draughts, Snakes and Ladders, and Scrabbles are good examples.
  5. Have your child tell you a story or narrate an event to you regularly. For example, on return from school each, it can be very helpful to ask your child to tell you about what happened at school or in class, or what they did with their friends that day. The idea is to encourage the child to process the information that they were exposed to all day.

The objective is to help engage and develop their minds so that they can learn to figure out things for themselves. That is key to their education.