Learning requires collaboration between educators, parents and students. A good triangular relationship allows students to learn more, and learn better at the same time. In this writing, I will share some ways which educators and parents alike can adopt to empower our students.
1. Promote A Positive Learning Environment
Do you still remember those times when you were much younger and kept on asking “Why” and “How”? We will let our mind wander and try to figure out the science behind it. As we grow older, how many of us still ask those questions? Is the decrease in number due to us knowing it all after all our studies or because we do not want to embarrass ourselves by asking people around us, “How does the gear system in my car actually work?” or “How does the automatic gears work without the clutch”? Personally, I will choose the latter as I will no doubt be worried that my curious questions may invite judgmental comments. I strongly believe that we are intrinsically inquisitive beings and should always promote a space for open learning.
It is imperative to create a positive learning environment that will engage and encourage students to learn and share. Don’t be afraid of their questions just because we may not have the technical knowledge or skills to answer them. Information is cheap. A simple Google search on the internet will give you search results from websites, books, videos and journal articles. The information will be sufficient for you and your child to learn together. Alternatively, you can use it as an opportunity for them to find out more by themselves and teach you instead. This is a “Student as Teachers” tip which is shared later in this writing.
2. Students as Decision-Makers
Students are much more capable than we think they are. They can be involved in the decision making process in their curriculum, leading to a student-centered learning. It allows their voices to be heard and for them to learn what they are interested in. At this juncture, there will be a natural concern of whether the students will steer off course and end up studying something which is out of syllabus. Perhaps I will answer this with another question,
Is assessment syllabus going to define the boundaries for learning?
The key lies in how we structure our curriculum or lessons to empower students with choices for their own learning. For instance, here at C4RL, after a computing lesson on conditional looping and if/else programming logic, students are allowed to choose their own project to work on that uses the concepts learnt. It reinforces their concepts and allow them to explore into other realms and sciences. No one likes someone else forcing an idea onto themselves. By giving students choices, it gives them the sense of ownership over their learning.
Just as how a parent first allow their child to use a knife in the kitchen, it will be filled with trepidation but yet it marks a new chapter in their growth and yours. Now, you have a chance to take the back seat and taste the fruits or salads which are prepared by them. However, it is crucial that as educators and parents, we facilitate their learning and tap upon opportunities as lessons.
3. Students as Teachers
If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.
This is my personal favourite that blends perfectly with the previous two points. Here, students take on a role of teachers while teachers or parents act as facilitators.
To teach is to learn twice. I have used this method to get my students to roleplay and teach the class about a chosen topic. Interestingly, they always impressed me with their passion and desire to know more about it, especially in an attempt to be an expert to answer my questions. This gives us a chance to assess their understanding of the topic and other soft skills. Maybe next time, you can try asking your child about what he had learnt in school and to get him to teach you about it. You will be encouraged by how he attempts to teach you something so technical in simple words.
In these 3 tips, you might have noticed the overlapping point of us as facilitators of learning. I am determined to bring learning out of the classroom, and into everyday places such as our home or even the grocery store. Empowering our child’s learning is not an easy feat that can be achieved overnight. It will take long periods of consistency from us in order for them to gradually take ownership of their own learning. Nevertheless, I am encouraged to explore new ways to empower them, and I invite you to join me too.