Tuesday, March 02, 2010

A goal for education: giving people confidence in their learning ability

Too many adults fear learning. They think they can't do it. I think a lot of this comes from their school experience.

I think education should have the explicit goal of preventing this fear. Of course, this shouldn't be the only goal of education, but I think it should be there to instill people with confidence that they actually can learn about things, so that they will feel able to learn new things on their own later in life.

This doesn't mean having some lame attempt to simply tell students they can learn things, nor does it mean just getting them to believe they can. (I'm thinking of the lame way that self-esteem seems to be taught - or at least how it was taught in my school). Just telling people how they should feel doesn't do anything.

People actually need to successfully learn things. Only then will be able to build confidence. Then they'll genuinely know that they can do it.

I'm not saying it's practical to do a perfect job at this, I'm just saying it is an area we should target and try and do better at. From my experience of schooling, I don't think this was a terribly high priority. It seemed to be more about grading people.

People also need to appreciate that learning things can be difficult, that there can be extended periods of pain with no apparent progress before finally getting over the hump. That's probably a separate matter, and perhaps one that is harder to get people to appreciate. It's one that is especially applicable to when people head out into the "real world".

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