Active learning

They were running some features about science in schools on the BBC morning news all last week.

Whenever there are reports about science in schools it is accompanied by images of Bunsen burners and dramatic experiments. But this is not the picture you get of science in schools from the teenagers. For despite the inspirational work of some teachers the more usual experience for many pupils is the mind numbing drudgery of writing up endless boring theoretical classes. The real experiments being held up as a treat, often only if the kids behave themselves, withheld if they don’t!

I would think that learning about science is a bit like writing in some ways. For in all the writing books they say that authors should ‘show’ not ‘tell’ a good story. In other words make their story come alive by showing the action, rather than narrating it.

Surely science is a subject that can really only be understood through action. Through first hand experiences, endless experimentation, hands on. And it is so sad that many children have such a depressing experience of being ‘told’ about science rather than being involved in exciting scientific action – in other words ‘doing it’.

This is in fact the case with all forms of learning, whatever the subject. It is the action of the learners that makes for the best learning experiences. And meaningful learning is an experience. Learners rarely engage with learning when the only experience they have of it is being ‘told’.

I think this is one of the reasons why home educated children learn so well. Most of them have the opportunity to be actively involved in their learning, whatever the subject. There really is so much to learn from home educators approaches to education.

One day maybe, as more and more parents turn to it in their dissatisfaction with schools, that will be acknowledged.

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