Sunday, August 19, 2012

Would you take classes if you weren’t forced?

I recently began wondering how people learn best. Specifically, how do people choose to learn when they are not forced to take classes because they want a job that required certain pieces of paper. Would classes be the method of choice and if not, what was?

So, I put my question on Twitter.

Lisa Nielsen @InnovativeEdu
If you didn't NEED a class to get that piece of paper (i.e. degree/diploma) is a class really the way you'd choose to learn? #edchat

I got a response.

Kelly Vaughan@luciente11
@InnovativeEdu Yes! I actually PREFER learning many/most things in classes. More engaging, social, accountability to process & others...

Then several more which you can read here and then a blog post.  

I thought about it.  


Some people really like classes, but I do not.

As an adult, aside from the classes I needed for my teaching and administrative licenses, have I taken classes to learn?

I asked that out loud and my bestie happened to be standing by and shared three things I learned that required classes.

Volleyball, ballroom dancing, and snowboarding.

But were these really “classes?” What I mean by that is were these the type of classes that we would take at a school to get a degree/diploma? In general, I’d say they’re not. Which for me was the problem with school and classes.  They are disconnected from learning in their real context.  When I choose to learn, while I will seek out someone with experience, I don’t go to a school, I go to the environment i.e. the beach, the dance floor, the slope.  

So maybe I was asking the wrong question.

Maybe the question should be this:

Lisa Nielsen@InnovativeEdu
When you want to learn something (outside what's required for a degree) do you go to school to do so? If not, where do you go? #edchat

Here are some of the responses I received.

jodi jackson stewart@nextmalawi
@InnovativeEdu online (especially blogs), library, friends that are experts.#edchat

@InnovativeEdu The internet! #edchat

Nicole Bucka@nbucka
@InnovativeEdu #EdChatRi Prof org CEC, ASCD; sites Center on Instruction and ; books-Simplifying RTI (amazing); twitter

Kimi Wei@kimiwei
@InnovativeEdu Go to reference librarians, trade organizations, search, books. I've been an autodidact all my life. It's easy. #edchat

But why is this important?

If you believe school life should be supporting our success in real life, then it stands to reason, that school children should have the opportunity to learn in the ways we learn best when given the freedom to do so.  

Understandably this would be different for different people. For example, Kelly Vaughan and I clearly have differences in at least one of the ways we like to learn.  Like jodi jackson stewart and Jen, I prefer learning via the internet through reading blogs, on social media, and with members of my personal learning network.

However, regardless of the way we choose to learn, there are some important similarities. In her blog post, Kelly notes what she enjoys about learning when it is not forced.

  1. Attendance is not compulsory. It is by choice.
  2. Self determined readiness to learn this information.
  3. Ability to select a teacher that is a good fit.
  4. Ability to choose a setting that feels right.
  5. Not having the requirement to juggle so many classes at once.

And, that is why both my questions were wrong.  

It is not whether we take classes or learn online that is important. Nor is it important if we prefer learning at a school, library, or on a slope.  

What is important is not what we do but rather what we don’t do.

When it comes to school what we rob students of is the freedom to choose.

So that finally gets me to the right question...I think:

Lisa Nielsen@InnovativeEdu
How can we give students the freedom to choose what, where, when, from whom, and how to learn? #edchat


  1. Hmmm.....I think applying an "elective class" concept to the core classes will address student autonomy. Instead of Fine Arts, PE, Languages, or FACS being the only electives, give that freedom to the core classes as well. That would allow for more teachers to be specialized as well. Now you have students enrolled in courses that they chose, so they're already intrinsically motivated to succeed. Maybe, maybe not.

  2. An excellent article and one I have also looked into, I now self educate, looking into both technical and none technical items as suites my will, some I have to do, for my CPD, Continued Professional Development, and some is for my self, but all is done outside of any university, although I have found that having a mentor, some one who has been there or knows more than i is so useful, bouncing ideas. I have taken this mentoring idea further by offering it to others who are on the same quest.
    Mentoring helps even further when it comes to evaluating my progress for the CPD issues I have, their comments and help is noted in my log and become part of my final article of submission, you'll notice I stay away from the exam word, I don't do exams, but continued self and mentor assessment, far better.

    A lot of this study I put onto my blog, wehere I also record and show my activity.