Saturday 8 November 2014

10 Ways of Learning to Learn

'Education ... is a process of living 
and not a preparation for future living.'
John Dewey, 1897 
Open Connections

Luna Vangelova writes about a learning group with a difference:  

Open Connections is based on the premise that “learning is natural and self-motivated, does not have to be compelled, and is experiential, as in the Confucian proverb, ‘I hear and I forget; I see and I remember; I do and I understand,’” Bergson says. Its other core beliefs: There is variation in human development; there is inherent value in free play and taking pleasure in learning; collaboration is more useful than competition; learners have the right to pursue their own interests; and people learn best in mixed-age groups, in an atmosphere free of the anxiety generated by artificial grading and testing.

Reading this description of Open Connections John Holt was brought to mind, not least because he was mentioned previously in the article. Then John Dewey followed and Mark Smith. Heres what they had to say about education and learning: 

John Holt - Instead of Education 

John Holt (1976) wants to help people do things better’. He is in favour of doing – self directed, purposeful meaningful life and work' – and against ‘education’- ‘learning cut off from active life and done under pressure of bribe or threat, greed and fear.’ 

Education he once described as ‘something that you can only get for yourself’ but the way ‘most people’ saw it was as ‘something that some people do to others for their own good, moulding and shaping them, and trying to make them learn what they think they ought to know’. 

Holt sees our human rights being violated in education, that we have ’the right to control our own minds and thoughts’ but that we are told through the process of education that ‘we cannot be… trusted to think’ and any ‘meaning we make for ourselves, out of our own experience, has no value.’ Holt goes as far as to say that compulsory, competitive education with its ‘carrots and sticks’ seems to him ‘perhaps the most authoritarian and dangerous of all the social inventions of mankind’ with its ‘people shaping’ and that it should be done away with toallow and help people to shape themselves.’ 

Instead of ‘education’ Holt advocates doing interesting things that matter[…], so we can grow ‘more informed, competent and wise’ and learn about the world from ‘living in it, working in it and changing it, and from knowing a wide variety of people who were doing the same.’ 

Instead of this, Holt tells us, we talk and argue about ‘growth, efficiency and progress and how human beings may best be selected and shaped (’educated’) and used for those ends.’Much of what we do as Community and Youth Workers is about providing opportunities to do ‘interesting things that matter.’ 

John Dewey - My Pedagogic Creed 

As John Dewey (1897) puts it education must be conceived as a continuing reconstruction of experience; …the process and the goal of education [being]… one and the same thing.'  Dewey believes that 'education a process of living and not a preparation for future living'. 

Mark Smith - Creaters Not Consumers 

Mark Smith (1997) sees informal education as part of a process,a way of helping people to learn.’  He believes that ‘social education is about process rather than product (creation not consumption)’ and that a comprehensive approach to education involves the conscious development of certain knowledge, feelings and skills. Smith defines ‘social education’ as ‘the conscious attempt to help people to gain for themselves, the knowledge, feelings and skills necessary to meet their own and others developmental needs.’ 


10 Ways of Learning to Learn 
from Holt, Dewey and Smith

  1. Get help to do things better and help people do things better
  2. Enjoy and promote experiential learning & 'doing' - self directed, purposeful meaningful life and work
  3. Make 'education' non compulsory and non competitive and promote fun and play and following of interests.
  4. Allow and help people to shape themselves in a constant reconstruction of experience..
  5. Do interesting things that matter to grow more informed competent and wise
  6. Learn about the world from living in it, working in it and changing it, and from knowing a wide variety of people who are doing the same.
  7. Enjoy and promote the process of the learning as well as the product of learning, as part of present living not just for future living.
  8. Let people gain for themselves the knowledge, feelings and skills they need to meet their own and others developmental needs
  9. Rather than judging yours and others  learning in quantitative terms judge it qualitatively  - by its value, or don't judge it at all.
  10. Insert here whatever else you think will be of help to you in your life long learning

Dewey, J. (1897). My Pedagogic Creed. School Journal, 54, 77-80.
Holt, J. (1976) Instead of Education, Ways to help people do things better. Penguin Books Ltd, Middlesex 
Smith, M. (1980, 1982) Creators not Consumers, NAYC Publications /Youth Clubs UK, Second Edition

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