Thoughts on the Nature of Human Beings and the Learning Process
Throughout evolution, people have always needed to be able to take in relevant information from the surrounding environment, synthesize it and formulate a plan of action, or face possible death. While the threat of death has been a key part of our evolutionary past, it is certainly not something that we need to contend with in our learning institutions today. However, the processing of information is still a crucial element in our ability to Learn and be successful in the 21st Century. Our human nature has evolved to perceive, interpret and assign meanings to events. As humans, we are always active agents in our own development, and are influenced tremendously by our thought processes.
How to help learners make the most of their abilities to perceive, interpret, assign meaning to information, and learn:
In today’s age of ‘Information’ and 21st century technology, we are confronted with more information than we have ever had to deal with and process on a daily basis. Information-processing, is not necessarily a skill that we teach our students, because they already come to the table with their own personal responses to information. However, educators can teach students to notice new and more effective strategies for processing information.
As educators, a big part of our job is to help students understand just how they construct their own experiences. Through effective questioning, intervention and instructional techniques, we can help our students gain a full understanding of what something personally means to them. Then, we can help them to understand how their own personal experiences, cultures, and beliefs can determine how they take in relevant information, synthesize it, and formulate appropriate plans of action. This involves teaching the ‘whole’ student, and helping students to understand how they process the information they are presented with, and how to effectively manage it.
It is important to build relationships within the classroom, in order to build trust, safety, and foster increased cooperation with others. In turn, we also end up educating our students toward new ways of understanding and organizing the world. Our automatic thought processes and awareness of the world can be expanded upon, and our students can build upon their repertoire of appropriate knowledge and behaviours that can be accesses in new situations.
Deeper still, are the assumptions, values, and core beliefs that run at the most basic level of our humanity. Rigid thinking, and absolute judgments will bias our selection and integration of the information in our environment. Therefore, Educators need to implement strategies to build caring relationships, foster good character, and multicultural awareness in order to expand upon those basic assumptions and values that can stand in the way of effectively processing and learning about the world around us.
In any classroom, every student will fall somewhere on a continuum of adaptive strategies that enhance their ability to learn. For instance, for the student who may feel sad or depressed, their ability to effectively process information may be hindered by a sense of defeat. Or the student with anxiety may be more vulnerable to new information and may feel defensive or the need to escape. Teachers and educators can manage these responses to learning by teaching deliberate thinking skills, goal setting, problem solving skills, and long term planning. They are all strategies that can help students to continually evolve, and be active agents in their own learning and development!
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