10 Strategies for Enabling Lifelong Learners in Your Classrooms
Let’s talk for a minute about lifelong learning; specifically, the want to learn both in and beyond school. Many teachers believe if they aren’t out to make our students lifelong learners they should consider another occupation. If you were to ask them right now, what would your students say about their school experience?
- Fun, exciting, engaging?
- Boring, useless, waste of time?
- Homework, studying, book reports?
- Hard work, sleepless nights, tired?
What about you? Did you feel the same things when you were in school? Back to the love of learning and giving it to our students for life. How do we do this? Make learning relevant. Does this mean be a class comedian or an entertainer? Does it mean you have to change your personality? Do you need to be someone you’re not? Absolutely not. In fact the worst thing you can do is make them dependent upon your personality. Kids can become addicted to the cult of personality and end up learning nothing about themselves. As we try to build lifelong learners our goal is to make ourselves less needed. We slowly step out of the picture so that students can fly on their own.
Developing Habits for Lifelong Learners
Here are 10 strategies for enabling lifelong learners. 1. Change your lenses Assume that everybody in your class wants to do well. No one wants to fail. Doing well is naturally preferable to doing poorly. When you change your lens to “everyone wants to do well” you become a problem solver when someone is doing poorly, rather than a blamer.
2. Eliminate the fear of failure
Kids fear failure because they are often conditioned to believe it comes with a punishment. This added pressure stresses them out. Assure them that you will do everything in your power to help them not fail. Formative assessment has to be fear-free. Use formative assessment as ungraded feedback to take the stress out of it. It should be helpful, not punitive. Teach them that failure is a means to learning and shouldn’t be feared.
3. Relate work to real life
Get to know your students personally and plug into their interests and values. It certainly takes time and creativity to make lessons relevant. Start by how you would see the content relevant to your own life. You may find yourself constantly thinking about your lesson plan throughout the day, and that’s okay. You’ve got technology to capture ideas as you go. You can also make a habit of keeping a notebook or notepad wherever you go. If you’re going to nurture lifelong learners you’ve got to be one yourself.
4. Make clear their vision
Give students a copy of the core standards or whatever standards you use. You may want to clean it up a bit and make it easy for them to understand and follow. This is a road map to their success. Outline the skills needed to go to the next level and brainstorm with them how to get there. This is embodied in the Define and Discovery stages of Solution Fluency. Again, formative assessment is the key along the way. You’re shooting for relevant, respectful, and ungraded feedback.
5. Allow them to solve their own problems, their own way
Help kids to discover and be comfortable with how they learn best. When kids who play sports perform poorly in a game, they know what they need to work on. Musicians practice the things that will help them get better. They don’t waste time with things they can already do well. Their learning is their own and they do it willingly. With this in mind you could perhaps rethink how homework is implemented and assessed.
6. Encourage work that requires collaboration
One of the ways that we work and that kids learn is through trading ideas. There is a difference between ‘cheating’ and ‘collaboration.’ When students use collaboration they can identify strengths in their team members and learn to harness those gifts as true collaborators.
7. Use whatever means possible
This is the 21st century and learning can be done anywhere at anytime. Computers, laptops, tablets, smartphones, and smart watches are becoming the norm in many societies. Although many see gadgets as distractions, they can also be seen as tools for learning valuable educational content. Of course, there’s also the matter of online content and the rate at which it’s expanding. One must learn the art of discerning fake news from legitimate content and that’s where Information Fluency comes in. Putting your lecture content online will preserve your knowledge for students to access for reviewing when they need to. Not only does it benefit the learner, but the teacher as well. If the inspiration moves you, you can tweet out a question to your students or jot it down in an online task organizer for later. You don’t know when a chance encounter with the muse will show up.
8. Create a classroom environment that is adaptable to any situation
Your classroom environment should be a workspace that allows for many different tasks. There are times when you need to sit and listen to information. There are times when you need to group with other students to share ideas. There are times when you have to get messy while experimenting. Allowing kids to have full creativity when they are generating solutions gives their minds freedom to work.
9. Rotate task responsibilities so everyone gets a sense of the big picture
By allowing kids to focus on different parts of the puzzle they gain insight into how it fits when they go to the next piece. They can then inform others on their insights, allowing success all around.
10. Celebrate victories
If the class wins, the student wins. Remember all along that you are assuring victory by everyone. You truly believe that if anyone fails it’s because you didn’t do something. Your teaching takes on a whole new meaning. Celebrations become meaningful because you celebrate lifelong learning, not merely the task at hand. Learning doesn’t have to be a chore. We are all learning consciously and subconsciously. Seeking out skills that will help make our lives better and enrich our experiences becomes something that we crave. Let the budding lifelong learners be your focus, with your subject matter as the means to get there.
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