Educators and philosophers once believed that knowledge was something that was given and students must sit quietly and absorb information from those willing to share. This type of learning has been found to be quite ineffective over the years and schools that embrace this type of learning are not likely to grow individuals who are prepared to contribute to our ever changing society where learning and growth are essential.
So what is learning?
According to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary learning is “the act or experience of one that learns, knowledge or skill acquired by instruction or study, [or] modification of a behavioral tendency by experience (as exposure to conditioning)” (Learning, n.d.). Educators all over the globe have sought to improve the process of learning for quite some time. We have tried to modify activities in the classroom, we have tried to change the learning process, we have even tried to redefine what learning is. Most often, the answer is found in the culture among us.
Learning in essence is a culture. It is “a modification of a behavioral tendency by experience” (Learning, n.d.). In order for education to be improved, we must improve the culture of learning.. Educational leaders long for success and we go to great lengths to find it when often it can be found by cultivating the learning within our own buildings. Creating a learning culture is essential in order to find continued success, especially during times of change.
Human culture is an enigmatic concept. Human culture consists of learned patterns, perceptions, beliefs, laws, or any behaviors that make one identifiable within a group. These behaviors are not limited to race, religion, gender or socioeconomic status. Edward Tylor (1871), as cited by O’Neil (2006), first defined culture as the “complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, law, morals, custom, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society” (para. 1). Culture comprises many levels of learned behaviors. These behaviors are not part of your DNA as culture is not genetic. Culture is all learned behavior. (O’Neil, 2006).
Learning as a Culture
Learning is much like that of a culture. It is constantly evolving, and growing with the sharing of ideas and beliefs, shared traits, and traditions of the learners. The learning depends greatly on how members communicate, rules among the group, roles of learners, and how learners are classified. The behaviors that create a culture also create learning. Even the practices that encourage or challenge the learning process are cultural in nature. Therefore, it is essential that we as educators focus on both culture and learning in order to truly be successful.
In order for us to be successful as educators, we must create learning cultures. Marcia Connor (n.d.) explained that a learning culture “evolves around creating an environment where learning takes place each day, all day—fundamentally changing the way we think about how, what, and when we learn, and how we can apply learning to practice” (para 4). Educational leaders must be willing to set a tone of learning and collaboration in which all stakeholders will openly participate in order to promote success.
The Future of Learning
Jean Piaget introduced the concept of cognitive development of learning in which he believed that children develop intellectually throughout childhood and learn by actively participating in a learning cycle. Maier and Marek (2006) explained that Piaget’s Learning cycle consisted of 3 stages: explore, develop, and apply. This learning process in which learners explore a concept, develop a hypothesis around data collected, and apply theories to evaluate assumptions (Maier and Marek, 2006) most closely relate to what students will see while collaborating in today's society.
As Vygotsky (1978) said, as cited by (“Social Constructivism”, 2016), “[k]nowledge is not simply constructed, it is co-constructed. [L]earning is essentially a social phenomenon” (para. 8). According to Vygotsky learners are motivated extrinsically while collaborating and learning with others in the learning community and intrinsically while understanding concepts and promoting learning within the community. This type of learning is important in order to create a learning culture in which all learners are encouraged to collaborate and continue the learning process.
Today’s students will be in control of developing their own learning paths in order to solve the problems that many can only phantom. Students will be collaborating with others globally and it will be essential for all learners to embrace collaboration where everyone can use their talents to create a coordinated collection of capacities in which everyone benefits. Creating a culture of learning is vital in order to sustain a drive for exploring and a continued desire for growth and success. It is truly exciting to think of the future that our students have awaiting them with the changes that have unfolded in education.
So I venture to ask...
What does learning look like in your school? Has it evolved from the prehistoric sit and get?
How many of you have asked your students, our future leaders, what learning looks like to them and what learning should look like moving forward?
How will you as educational leaders use what you have learned during this forced blended learning time to create more meaningful learning opportunities for students moving forward?
Connor, M. (n.d.). Introduction to Learning Culture. Retrieved October 12, 2016, from http://marciaconner.com/resources/learning-culture/
Learning. (n.d.). Retrieved October 15, 2016, from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/learning
Maier, S. J., & Marek, E. A. (2006). The Learning Cycle: A Reintroduction. The Physics Teacher, 44(2), 109. doi:10.1119/1.2165443
O'Neil, D. (2006, May 26). Human Culture: What is Culture? Retrieved October 16, 2016, from http://anthro.palomar.edu/culture/culture_1.htm
Social Constructivism. (2016). Retrieved October 16, 2016, from http://gsi.berkeley.edu/gsi-guide-contents/learning-theory-research/social-constructivism/