It was with a fair dollop of trepidation I took to a stage last week at Edutech 2014 in Brisbane and shared some ideas about creative learning. Marginally due to the number of people, but mainly it was the fact that I had not done the keynote before, some new ideas / new keynote angst.
During my talk we explored the struggle for great pedagogy and the tension of creative learning. I outlined the need to dispel the myth that we are making such polarised choices about learning – the reality and the beauty of it is in the complexity.
I shared some research by Elizabeth Bonawitz, called the Double Edged Sword of Pedagogy that showed young learners are more likely to explore and discover for themselves if they are not taught all of the information. Their tendency to explore increases when adult instruction suggests there is more to find out.
Furthermore Bonawitz observed the emerging awareness to an instructional pedagogy even in youngsters:
“the results suggest a striking competence in young children: they are able to negotiate the trade-off between exploration and instruction such that they explore more when that can rationally infer that there is more information to be learned. Moreover, children demonstrate this competence remarkably early. By preschool, children seem actively to evaluate their teachers both for the knowledge they have and their ability to demonstrate it. Thus, well before children are immersed in formal education, they are sensitive to some conditions that promote effective instruction.”
Signalling that there is more to discover can be achieved by simply saying “I don’t know”. Not in any defeatist sense of closure but in one of open delight that there is much more to learn.
I have always believed that such a stance with learners should be a default option. Especially when we are fielding the questions they ask. In addition to encouraging further exploration we also encourage more questioning. Think of these questions as way-markers for that journey into a new land, over time they will leave a breadcrumb trail for us to look back upon and maybe for others to discover together.
Another important effect of saying “I don’t know” in terms of learning is the prolongment of the period of enquiry, providing more opportunities for further questions and discovery. If questions start everything a prolonged state of uncertainty maintains and deepens our thinking, as John Dewey outlined:
“To be genuinely thoughtful, we must be willing to sustain and protract that state of doubt which is the stimulus to thorough enquiry, so as not to accept an idea or make a positive assertion of a belief, until justifying reasons have been found.”
I thoroughly enjoyed sharing some of my ideas during the keynote and it has been lovely to have seen some of your feedback comments from those of you who were there. I will be exploring some more of the themes from my talk in future posts over on the NoTosh Facebook page and in much more detail here.