A sketch for the Big Idea

It was on a train to Bristol yesterday, travelling with my colleague Ben, that I articulated in I think the clearest terms yet the model of learning that through my various projects I would like to explore and develop practically. It goes something like this:

What do I want to know or be able to do?

What skills or knowledge do I need to have in order to meet this aim?

Which of these skills, knowledge or aptitudes do I already have?

How can I make up the deficit?

How will I know when I’ve got there?

The benefits of the approach are:

it starts with the needs of the individual, and values their own experience of the world. It is potentially empowering and rewarding. It could be self-sustaining if the individuals develop the skills necessary to adopt the approach.

Disadvantages or challenges I can see are:

Learners need to have developed a certain level of skill and maturity before they can adopt the approach. Learners need access to a whole different type of coach or teacher who can guide them through the process. The approach is not easily scalable, requiring a much more tailored relationship between coach or teacher and student.

I see these disadvantages as challenges to be overcome, and hopefully my projects can help contribute.

My motivations are:

A love of self-started learning and personal development; the astounding way that our brains can learn and a concern that our current formalised systems of learning are crude; the depressing sight of students motivated purely by grades and the hugely destructive fetch that summative assessment seems to have on the learning process.

Clearly these thoughts need refining, but I wanted to get these reflections written down while they are fresh. Clearly these are also big ideas to implement – perhaps impossible. In this respect I am inspired by the following from Rousseau’s Emile:

“People are always telling me to make practicable suggestions. You might as well tell me to suggest what people are doing already, or at least to suggest improvements which may be incorporated with the wrong methods currently in use. There are matters witch regard to which such a suggestion is far more chimerical than my own, for in such a connection the good is corrupted and the bad is none the better for it. I would rather follow the established method than adopt a better method by halves. There would be fewer contradictions in the man; he cannot aim at one and at the same time two objects.”