Rethinking Education Pt.6: Learn From Nature

In the talk at Apple Education Leadership Summit Sir Ken Robinson revealed some quite important numbers. (Watch the video at Edutopia.) Let me share it very quickly.

There was a divergent thinking test carried out three times with a same group of children as they were growing up. The numbers show the percentage of kids who show the genius level of divergent thinking:

  • 3 – 5   years old:    98%
  • 8 – 10  years old:   32%
  • 13 – 15 years old:  18%

What do we see here? First, almost everyone is born genius in divergent thinking. Second, the 10 years of socialization and education resulted in significant decline of this capacity.

But I’d like to share with you one more thing, very important one, to my opinion.

These numbers show that through first 3 – 5 years of life the genius level of divergent thinking remains.

Now let me do some easy reasoning: what are the essential skills learned in first years of life?

  1. We learn to walk
  2. We learn to talk

The big good news is here: the way we learn to walk and to talk does not affect our creative capacity.

What do we know about learning to walk and learning to talk? A lot! I suggest you to google on the topic or pick up an issue of e.g. Phonetica journal or Journal of Biomechanics, if you prefer scientific approach, you will see the abundance.

What are the main differences between learning to walk and to talk and education practices? Maybe we should pay some attention here? Maybe we should learn something from nature? You know, there is a study claiming that infants learn to speak similarly as birds learn to sing (look here).

I want to point out several differences that, I suppose, are of great importance:

  1. Learning through experience: trial & error. There is a great lack of practice in schools and too much restrictions, too much rules. Theory is dead without practice. I do not mean we should throw out the theory. I mean it is crucial to complement theory with practice. For most of theories it is quite easy to do, but it is not being done. Same with trial & error. Today everyone is meant to be excellent from the very first attempt, otherwise he is supposed to be defective. How many lives were ruined due to this idiocy?
  2. Learning through social feedback. Feedback is in the heart of practice. The easiest feedback seems to be through social interaction, through conversation. That is essentially how we learn to talk. Yet, in classrooms conversations are almost tabooed. What a great waste of opportunities to learn! School, I think, should show directions and reinforce conversations, not to restrict.
  3. Learning at own pace. Everyone has its own learning capacities. We should not force learning. Once again, there is a study claiming that the infants who were pushed to walk by parents can suffer dyslexia (look here). Current education applies the same yardstick to everybody, with many being pushed and some being slowed down.

The nature is our everlasting teacher. We should turn to nature in times when we don’t know the answers.

Leading photo by .: sandman

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