I have always been a learner because I knew nothing.” These profound words were written by Sydney Poitier in his novel “Life Beyond Measure, Letters to My Great-Granddaughter.” If only we all had this attitude towards learning. He poetically writes “I didn’t have an education, and I couldn’t read very well. I couldn’t spell. I could barely count to a hundred. But I did have a curiosity. I looked at insects. I looked at birds and crickets. I looked at fish on the edge of the sea.” Sydney had the curiosity, persistence, responsibility and creativity to learn. If only all human beings had this drive to be a “learner,” especially our children and the generations to come.
A learner prides themselves on key characteristics:
- Meta learning: This concept describes the notion of being aware of and taking control of one’s own learning. The ability to be in control of habits of perception, growth and regulate your own learning according to the demands and difficulty of the task at hand is one that only skilled learner’s experience.
- Curiosity: Typically, questions are seen as the province of teachers, who spend years figuring out how to craft questions and fine-tune them to stimulate students’ curiosity and engage them more effectively. However, teaching students to ask their own questions enables greater ownership of their learning, deepen comprehension, and creates new connections and discoveries on their own.
- Persistence: the continuation of effort in the face of difficulty is a sought after attribute. The willingness to continue to try in the face of adversity does not come naturally for children – as giving up is easier. A child with persistence is undoubtedly a skilled learner!
Teaching this generation to become “learners” – an individual who thinks about their own learning, makes a habit of asking questions, use what they have learned, teach what they have learned to others and enjoy the learning process on an intrinsic level is a challenge. The good news is there are strategies that can be adopted through practice for your child to intrinsically be connected to the concept of “learning.”
- Cognitive strategies: As educators and parents, we can directly assist our children to manipulate incoming information in order to enhance learning. By repeating tasks, using resources thoroughly, taking notes and contextualising words and phrases – children can be taught and nurtured to change the way they learn, rather than being forced to learn.
- Meta-cognitive strategies: We can encourage our children to form their own cognitive processes and gain skills used for planning, monitoring and evaluating their learning activity – it’s more about strategies about learning rather than learning strategies themselves. It’s all about self monitoring, self evaluation, and self reinforcement.
- Motivation and Self esteem: A child that is motivated can initiate their learning and later drive to sustain long and tedious learning processes. It is manifest that in learning, people are motivated in different ways. Your child may like doing grammar and memorising; others want to speak and role-play; while others avoid speaking. Assess what motivates your child and remember a pat on the back and a “You can do this” goes a long way!
The ability of your child taking responsibility of their learning is undoubtedly possible. The path to become a “learner” and experience “learner autonomy” should be realised and aided in order to achieve self sufficient learners; in becoming aware of, and identifying, their own strategies, needs, and goals. As parents and educators, we can adapt resources, materials, and methods to the learners’ needs and even abandon all this if need be. But ultimately, the road to becoming a learner takes a long time to develop and as we watch our children grow and prosper, all we can do is assist and nurture.