Our long-term aim should be to make our children into independent learners and thinkers. In an era where popular quiz games emphasize the 'getting of right answers' and the internet is awash with right answers, we need to be mindful that in the twenty-first century 'asking the questions' to find the right answers - or, better still, to 'question the answers' - is equally important.
Some of us would argue that this intellectual ability is more important than getting the 'right answer'. We need to give children the tools and the processes that will enable them to arrive at their own judgements.
A recent example of the recognition of this is the emphasis on Creativity, Thinking and Problem Solving, to be found in the Primary National Strategy, 'Excellence and Enjoyment', 'Key Aspects of Learning'. It is worth noting that in the 1980s there was a national network based on Thinking, from the 'Instrumental Enrichment' of Reuben Feuerstein to the 'Philosophy in the Classroom' of Mathew Lipman. Sadly this early flower was overtaken by the Education Reform Act of 1988.
If children are to become independent, we need to train and educate them in this way of working. We need to challenge them to think more deeply and more widely. There is a way of working and thinking that children need to learn and that we need to teach.
If we look at our teaching approaches simplistically we can see a progression from Direct teaching to Instrumental and Instructional teaching, to Guided discovery and finally to Independent working.
This progression moves from a 'teacher centered' approach to a much more 'child centered' approach.
There is no single right way to teach; all approaches have value. We need to use a balance of approaches as and when appropriate, depending on the content we wish to teach and the 'readiness' of our children.
A big step on this journey, regardless of the age of the children, is to encourage them to decide for themselves, where appropriate. Start by giving them choices and the children accepting the consequences, regardless of whether it refers to their work or behavior.
The above is an argument for teaching children good learning behaviors. Before we consider that we need to remind ourselves of this question:
Is it caught or is it taught?
Teach children 'good learning behaviors' and don't just assume that they will pick them up along the way.
This is the Big Idea behind what I am trying to say. These learning behaviors range from the obvious such as listening, to the 'Key aspects of Learning' as described in the Primary National Strategy, 'Excellence and Enjoyment, Learning to learn: progression in the key aspects of learning'.
My contention is that we often think that children will pick these skills up as we deliver the curriculum content. There is no doubt that some children prove to be good listeners and thinkers even though we don't explicitly teach that. I would argue that, if we wish to develop these intellectual skills for all children, then it is more effective to teach them in a much more deliberate manner.
Make learning behaviors your lesson objective.