Friday, October 15, 2010

Teachers of Learning

The focus of IB world schools is on learning, not on teaching.  Learning is a process that is facilitated and modelled by the teachers, therefore it's important that all IB teachers are teachers of learning.  Our job is to help students understand how they learn and how to reflect on what they have learnt and to help them value learning in their lives.

In the IB document "Towards a continuum of international education"  there is a section on learning how to learn.  I was reading this document today in preparation for our in-service day after the holidays, which will focus on connecting the various programmes, PYP, MYP, DP (and even AP which some students at our school choose to do in their final years).  The IB offers 3 programmes, each of which is self contained, since schools may choose to offer just one of these, but the expectation of the IB is that programmes should form a meaningful continuum when schools offer all three, or a sequence of two.

The IB views learning as a process.  In international schools students bring with them their own beliefs and knowledge based on their previous experiences, and are then exposed to new experiences which may challenge previously held beliefs and allow students to create new meaning by developing and extending their understanding.  Running across all three programmes is the IB Learner Profile.  Some parts of the Learner Profile deal with cognitive competencies (inquirers, knowledgeable, thinkers, communicators and reflective), others deal with dispositions and attitudes (principled, open-minded caring, balanced and risk-takers).

What should we be teaching to develop effective learners?

  • learners need to process and evaluate knowledge, not just acquire it
  • learners need to be able to adapt to change, not just respond to change
  • learners need to be able to transfer skills and learning
  • learners need to know how to work collaboratively to solve problems
  • learners need to know how to learn
  • learners need to develop self-confidence as well as academic competence
  • learners need to be able to think critically in order to make their own informed judgements
Students have their own individual learning styles, and in addition students' learning styles may vary from one class to another.  As a result it's difficult to teach "study skills" out of context as there is no one method that is useful for all students in all subjects.  Teaching students how they learn best is therefore an integral part of the curriculum, not just a separate "add on".  As teachers of learning it's vital for us to understand our own teaching and learning styles and to model the reflective practices we want students to develop.  It's important for students to see that we are learners too.

Photo Credit:  Teaching the youngster to feed by John Haslam

1 comment:

  1. It is unfortunate that in the school systems we don't think about learning more. Especially in schools I have been in, I have noticed that the trend is toward thinking about and talking about teaching. Very little thought is given to learning. This is a mistake because learning is truly what it is all about.