New Learning Models

Goodbye 3Rs Hello 3Ps

People, Places, and Possibilities 

The 3Rs of Reading, wRiting and aRithmetic have long been the bedrock of modern education systems; the keys to the kingdom of knowledge and understanding. The kingdom itself is becoming an altogether different place where new relationships are being forged to tackle society’s intractable issues. Individual problems become possibilities when reframed as inter-relational constructs that are more readily solved through cooperative enterprise. In these circumstances, skills are no longer fixed propositions. They are flexible competencies that must be continually configured to navigate the next set of uncertainties. Today’s leader is anyone, of any age, from any walk of life, who chooses to rise to this challenge and at the same time hold space for others on the ensuing journey of discovery.

The corollary is an emergence of learning models that are themselves held together by a new kind of “warm data” which enable the co-learners to work together in a different kind of relationship. The teacher becomes a coach and facilitator, the students become more agentic and self-organised, the learning itself becomes dynamic and explorative. The theatre of activity is any place where people are collaborating to engage with real problems. Subsequently, a “problem” addressed in this fashion is instantly reframed as a possibility. So, real people, real places, real possibilities (3RP) is the de facto call-to-action for emergent collaboration models, within which all parties and contributions will, by design, have equal value. Sorry lovers of hierarchy!

3RP educational models unlock the once impenetrable interfaces between socio-economic sub-systems such as healthcare, education and housing focussed organisations who can now find new opportunities to improve the lives of the people whose welfare they hold in common. The parents and guardians of the younger generations have a crucial and potentially scary role in all this; they are the gatekeepers and space-holders. Their role is less one of guidance and stewardship and more about holding space for emotional co-regulation with their children, who are the primary beneficiaries of this new world order. If the old adage is true and “children are the future” then the future is now.

One such example, from Germany, is Lernen durch Lehren (LdL) which means Learning By Teaching, a conceptual framework developed in the 1980s by Professor Jean-Pol Martin now retired and living in Ingolstadt. One of Professor Martin’s students, Isabelle Schulhladen Le Bourhis, is now in Meitingen (Bavaria) at a school teaching with LdL. For Isabelle, LdL is the mindset for teaching in the 21st century. From the outset, the students are educated about brain function and the basics of the LdL model.

“If we teach today’s students as we taught yesterday’s, we rob them of tomorrow.”

– John Dewey

Isabelle told us her lessons were not impacted a great deal by the Coronavirus outbreak. We work with digital tools in self-organized groups and therefore are as comfortable working remotely away from the [physical] classroom as we are online. So the pandemic was not a big change for us. For us, a classroom is any safe, collaborative place where the students are allowed to explore and even encouraged to make mistakes. We see mistakes and surprises as evidence of learning. 

By collectively pursuing a mutually agreed development goal the teacher is learning as much as the students.  In this space, learning occurs at the speed of trust and is focussed on the discovery of creative solutions for real-world challenges. It’s the innovator mindset in action; the ability to adapt quickly to a constantly changing environment.

While We’re Learning We’re Living

LdL is a multilayered, light-touch scaffolding system that supports the individuals capacity to reflect in the moment and think critically.  It builds self-confidence and capacity to achieve a collective brain state in the learning process. The “safety first” notion of “low risk, high fun” charades contained in highly choreographed, controlled spaces is deeply flawed. The development of critical thinking and self-starting behaviour is best nurtured within a loose, trust-building framework. It may feel risky at first but, in the long run, it’s more impactful. After all, it is how our ancestors learned for hundreds of millennia and we do well to remember this is the current era of uncertainty.

While conventional learning models are trying hard to implement 20th-century ideas like “No Child Left Behind” from self-defeating silos, 3RP approaches like LdL are about living it for real. Isabelle shared examples where the students demonstrated self-organisation and mutuality well beyond what she had experienced in conventional environments. One touching example being, students acting of their own volition and contacting group members who had unexpectedly missed online sessions and taking steps to ensure everyone in the group was up to speed with current learning. This behaviour makes the 21st-century classroom a “point-of-care” perhaps better positioned to prevent long term social trauma than any modern-day medical practice, by virtue of its location at the heart of the lived experience. 

“We Can’t Learn Without Ourself Teaching” 

Isabelle’s class was invited by the Bavarian Minister for Education to discuss how to implement the use of digital tools in schools and as a result, schools can apply for iPads. Collaborative learning, she believes, is more of an expedition to the unknown than it is an organised safari. The participants have no predetermined expectations other than the safe discovery of something new and interesting. This makes the primary goal of their learning the care and welfare of each member of the group. Only then can they experience for themself the complex insights that emerge during a true journey of discovery. 

The coach-come-teacher is freed-up from the 20th-century role of “sage on the stage” and can focus efforts into ensuring the learning environment is a safe place to play and explore according to with the lines of inquiry the students wish to take. There are no wrong routes in this process and the students move at their own pace (speed of confidence). It’s a model that cultivates empathy, social skills, connection to nature and community.  

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