Discovery + Mentoring = Education

Today we're discussing how we ourselves learn, and some ideas about how to do school. There are two TED lectures for this discussion, "A short intro to the Studio School" and "Gever Tulley teaches life lessons through tinkering". The link at the top of each quote will take you to the lecture it comes from.

Multiple intelligences is a theory that there is more than one kind of intelligence in human beings. There's a lot of disagreement as to how to categorize the different intelligences, but the diagram above shows a lot of the options that have been put forward. Looking at the diagram, which kinds of intelligence do you have?

How teenagers (people!) learn
Teenagers who are really bored by schooling. It doesn't animate them. They're not like all of you who can sit in rows and hear things said to you for hour after hour. They want to do things, they want to get their hands dirty, they want education to be for real.
Teenagers learn best in teams.
Teenagers learn best by doing things for real.
You work by learning, and you learn by working.

Is this true or partially true for you? Is this true for anyone you know?
How do you personally learn best?

Einstein said, "Things should be as simple as possible, but not simpler."

So, another thing that we do is to confuse adult sophistication with the actual understanding of some principle. So a kid who's 14 in high school gets this version of the Pythagorean theorem, which is a truly subtle and interesting proof, but in fact it's not a good way to start learning about mathematics. So a more direct one, one that gives you more of the feeling of math, is something closer to Pythagoras' own proof, which goes like this: so here we have this triangle, and if we surround that C square with three more triangles and we copy that, notice that we can move those triangles down like this. And that leaves two open areas that are kind of suspicious ... and bingo. That is all you have to do. And this kind of proof is the kind of proof that you need to learn when you're learning mathematics in order to get an idea of what it means before you look into the, literally, 1,200 or 1,500 proofs of Pythagoras' theorem that have been discovered.

Discovering on your own
And what this teacher did on every project was to have the children act like first it was a creative arts project, and then something like science. So they had created these artifacts. Now she had them look at them and do this ... laborious, which I thought for a long time, until she explained to me was to slow them down so they'll think. So they're cutting out the little pieces of cardboard here and pasting them up.
But the whole point of this thing is for them to look at this chart and fill it out. "What have you noticed about what you did?"

When faced with particularly difficult setbacks or complexities, a really interesting behavior emerges: decoration. (Laughter) Decoration of the unfinished project is a kind of conceptual incubation. From these interludes come deep insights and amazing new approaches to solving the problems that had them frustrated just moments before.

Two related problems
We felt the most important priority was to bring together two sets of problems.
1. One was large numbers of bored teenagers who just didn't like school, couldn't see any relationship between what they learned in school and future jobs.
2. And employers who kept complaining that the kids coming out of school weren't actually ready for real work, didn't have the right attitudes and experience.
And so we try to ask: What kind of school would have the teenagers fighting to get in, not fighting to stay out of?

Different kinds of skills, all necessary
The importance of what's now called non-cognitive skills -- the skills of motivation, resilience -- are as important as the cognitive skills -- what's usually called formal academic skills.

The Studio School setup
-small schools -- about 300-400 pupils
-14 to 19 year-olds
-80 percent of the curriculum done not through sitting in classrooms, but through real-life, practical projects, working on commission to businesses, NGO's and others.
-every pupil would have a coach, as well as teachers
-each pupil would have timetables much more like a work environment in a business.
-done within the public system, funded by public money, but independently run.
-at no extra cost, no selection, and allowing the pupils the route into university, even if many of them would want to become entrepreneurs and have manual jobs as well.

No universal system
We feel… the Studio School idea [is] something which is present, not a universal answer for every child.

Some thoughts I had while putting together this post:
Children need mentors.
Children need to be given circumstances where they can discover things for themselves, and then need to be given the opportunity to digest these things and grow.

Perhaps a one-size-fits-all approach to a school system is not the answer. Perhaps the best school system is one that offers many different kinds of learning opportunities?

Some other TED talks about school or teaching you might find interesting:
John Hardy: My green school dream 13分鐘
Arthur Benjamin's formula for changing math education 6分鐘
AnnMarie Thomas: Hands-on science with squishy circuits 6分鐘
Gever Tulley 5 dangerous things you should let your kids do 9分鐘