Time to learn

I accompanied my wife to the doctor’s today. On the noticeboard there was a statement that made me think. This Thursday morning there is no surgery because they are doing staff training. On the notice it said one small statement “TIME TO LEARN”.

I have recently retired from my position as a local authority mathematics consultant. As I sat and waited for my wife to return from her appointment, it occurred to me that I now had plenty of time to learn. In my day-to-day existence as a consultant I lived, like so many others do, by the clock. Appointments in schools, meeting after meeting and the need to be somewhere five minutes ago.

In schools we expect children to learn in a set period of time. We are dominated by the clock.The dreaded bells ring and everything ends. It is so frustrating to think tat you are just beginning to make progress on some aspect of mathematics (for example) and then the teacher says that the bell is about to ring and you must put all of your things away and then, like a wandering nomad in the desert, go off to the next piece of  “learning”.

In the relaxed environment of a retirement, I am no longer dominated by a clock. If I get onto the net I have the time to explore something,to research it and to let myself reflect on the implications of what I have learnt. I have started my very first online course on neuroscience in education. I am developing slowly in the mastery of some very technical terms. I have time to watch a video over if I want to and then to do some further research by following the links provided.

Recently I  missed out on a few days of learning in the course because I had a number of other things to do. I returned and had the time to go over what I had last learned and this was so useful. My learning in neuroscience is a journey into the unknown for me and I need to retrace my steps when I have ventured off the beaten track for a while.

The things I have described above fit me as a learner. I feel that they would fit any human learning. When we learn an instrument we do not learn in one set period of time. We need to practice, get it wrong, retrace our steps and then learn from watching the skills of others. We get it wrong so many times and yet we make progress (some at a greater rate then others!) this is not the way it is in a school.

The last few years, as a consultant, I have been peddling the new mantra of “learning” as against “teaching” as the main priority. But the practice I see in schools is still about teachers instructing in strict parcels of time. The students do not have the real “time to learn” that I do. They are expected to learn because the opportunity is given to them at a particular time.

The “timetable” is a creation of the time-driven industrial model of education. Schools that have experimented with flexibility in terms of learning time have provided a more relaxed and natural way for children to learn. This runs completely contrary to the ideas of people like Michael Gove  who want more instruction in tighter time limits to specific ends that are tests and exams.

I do not have an exam at the end of my e-course, I do not have limits on the time when I can learn and the pace which I must learn at. I am enjoying the experience of learning new things and because I am learning in a more natural way, I am probably picking things up faster and in greater depth than I would have if I were to have enrolled for a course in neuroscience at a local college and had to try and fit into the time constraints that they work under.

When will we learn? When will we provide our children with real “time to learn”?



One thought on “Time to learn

  1. As an educational consultant, I too am following the new mantra of “learning” as opposed to the term “teaching” and do agree with the new term but feel many teachers still view education as “What do I have to teach today?” It is by no fault of the teacher as that is the way the institution is set up and designed. It forces teachers into this mode of… the bell rings and now I must go teach!” I firmly believe that schools as they currently exist need to reinvent themselves to complement the learning styles of students and our curriculum’s need to adjust to compliment life long learning but it is the how do we get there that poses the challenge.

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