Learning is Messy

Learning is messy. Sometimes it progresses at a nice pace. Sometimes it explodes in a fountain of acquisition. Other times it rides long plateaus. It goes off on tangents, loses directions, realizes its mistakes and charts new courses. It gets bored. It opens up cans of worms and then tries to put the pieces back together again. Its a beautiful mess.

Schools need to embrace this mess. Why is it they we feel the need to chart specific learning benchmarks for specific ages? We all learn differently, at different paces, and with different strengths and challenges. This is a good thing. It helps us see things from other perspectives.

The more I’m in education the more artificial it seems to say that a student should know X,Y,Z at the age of 11 in order to move into the next grade. A student should be able to take courses that match their interests and their current location on their learning journey. If that means they are best suited for a course that is filled with 14 year-olds for literacy and a course that is filled with 10 year-olds for math, then so be it.

Check out this article about Sudbury Valley School in Massachusetts, USA. They fearlessly take this concept and put learning completely in the hands of their students with no pre-conceived notion of what it is any particular student needs to be learning at any given moment.