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Are schools really made for learning?

How to teach more efficiently? and How to learn more efficiently? are two questions that puzzle educational professionals and students from the dawn of education. Teaching has been around for thousands of years and it changed and adapted many times during the course of history in order to satisfy the human hunger for knowledge. It evolved constantly and eventually became the mass education we all know today.

Thanks to the mass education, everyone has the right to learn and has access to knowledge so they can prepare themselves for the challenges they meet in their personal and professional lives. More importantly, from time to time, the mass education system brings to light brilliant minds who are able to give a better future for the entire humanity.

Why standardization of education misses the mark

But still, mass education has a major flaw, and that is its standardization. There are at least two main reasons why the standardization of education does not benefit learners and society.

The first one is that standardization overlooks the diversity of learners. Students are individual human beings who think differently and learn differently. Although our brains function in a similar manner, the cognitive process of each student can be significantly different. We don’t receive information the same way: some of us are visual learners, while others have auditory or tactile learning styles. And more importantly, it differs how we store and retrieve the information we learn.

In order for students to learn efficiently, they need to be involved and engaged in the learning process. And keeping students involved with standardized teaching is a pretty hard thing to do.

The second reason is that standardization overlooks the diversity of jobs that students will have to fulfill after they graduate. The school system as we know it was built in a different era and for the needs of that period. With all the advances in technology, many new jobs are created every year, and these jobs need innovative skills that can’t be taught through standardized teaching.

The education system has to keep up, otherwise millions of university graduates will be less prepared for the modern world and for the ever-changing job requirements.

To initiate a change in the education system we need to get rid of the ostrich strategy. You know, when we use the same old teaching methods and keep our heads in the sand hoping they will work. Instead of striving to standardize the output of schools and universities with often outdated teaching methods, educational professionals should create a culture of learning and make teaching institutions the epicenter of this culture.

The learning culture in schools

In order to implement a successful learning culture, there has to be a paradigm shift. Everyone should focus on learning and on teaching students how to learn, instead of teaching them what the standards require.

Every student wants to learn, absolutely every one of them. The problem is that students don’t always want to learn what is taught through the standardized curricula. This is mainly because the learning materials aren’t engaging enough, they have a hard time keeping up, or simply because they don’t see the purpose of the subject.

If you want to go down on the path of creating a learning culture in your school, here are some ideas that might help you get started.

Teach students how to learn

Rote learning leads to embarrassingly low retention rates, and it is tightly linked to standardized education. Students rely on memory to pass standardized tests, but after a short amount of time, they inevitably forget what they have learned.

A healthy learning culture has no place for rote learning, and students are more engaged if they understand the reasons behind why should they learn something.

Instead of memorizing definitions, complex formulas and concepts, students should be taught how to find the information they need when they need it, and how to use it. Good research skills will prove more important in their careers than the ability of memorizing vast amount of content.

Allow students to choose what they learn

People like having choices and being able to pick the option that best fits their needs. When I was a student, my optional courses were the best. I liked the freedom they gave me. I was always happy to attend and I was always engaged in each class. Needless to say, my best scores were from those courses and I still remember a lot of what I’ve learned.

Giving students the choice to take part in the courses they find interesting will keep them deeply involved in the process and they’ll want to learn more and more.

Customize the learning content

Customizing the learning content at an individual level is not yet possible, especially if we’re talking about hundreds of students. But what it is possible though is to differentiate and group students based on their learning abilities and learning styles, and customize the learning content to fit each target group's needs.

Technology offers many options to create different versions of the same learning content. Besides text, teachers could use videos, screencasts and audio recordings to engage both auditory and visual learners. Flipping the classroom — where students learn at home at their own pace, then the next day at school they solve problems, alone or with the rest of the class and with the help of the teacher — is a strategy that spreads across states and countries.

There are many means such as multimedia tools, apps, learning platforms, LMSs, and teaching concepts that can help customize the learning process and help students in acquiring knowledge. Schools just need to find the best fit for them.

Create engaging content

All courses should be engaging to help students stay focused on their learning path. Engaged students will pay attention to the course materials and they will be able to store information better and ultimately they will be able to retrieve it more easily.

An easy way to create engaging courses is by adding an element of fun, and perhaps a little competition. By making the whole course a game, a serious one, you can transform the whole learning process into a quest to acquire knowledge, and students will compete with each other to learn better and faster.

Don’t forget about evaluation

Evaluating outcomes is indispensable if we want to constantly improve teaching strategies and realize the goals of education. The learning process should be analyzed based on student feedback and on students’ achievements as well. Education personnel has to be trained on how gather data and how to analyze the acquired information, but more importantly, they need to know how to interpret them.

Only by identifying and solving the existing problems could they help change the education system to better fit the current and future needs.

The need for learning is coded into our genes, otherwise we wouldn’t be able to adapt and survive. This need is never ending and fuels the desire to acquire more and more knowledge. By creating a learning culture in schools we could make learning a truly lifelong process.

The more I learn the more I realize how much I don't know

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