Sunday, May 10, 2009

Knowledge & Skills

Education has always been about relationships and power-shifts. There is an inherent problem in being a teacher – one is in a position of power. Of course, parents, or some cases caregivers, are in the same situation. Even more in that they are first cab off the rank. But to become an adult a young person has to move from dependency to self-sufficiency.

Education is about enabling such empowerment - the opposite of indoctrination which merely switches people from one state of dependency to another. It is an age-old argument: motivate or control. As most parents and teachers know, it is not an either/or question. Good teachers have always known that learning involves moving from the known into the unknown. Such teachers anticipate their students will in time catch up or overtake them making their assistance redundant. It’s one of our society’s most important tasks. The well-being of the individual and the community depends on it being done efficiently and effectively.

We have an increasing awareness of the importance of the process in learning itself. Teachers have always taught content, always will. You can't learn about nothing. Having said that it must be accepted that no matter how carefully content is selected much becomes redundant over time, or needs to change, or proves unnecessary, indeed sometimes even becomes useless clutter or harmful. At one stage everyone knew the earth was flat.

Knowledge can change, whereas processes once mastered remain with the learner. How to learn, how to transfer knowledge, solve problems, make generalisations, analyse data, use a keyboard, relate to other people, these and many others are process skills. Like riding a bicycle, once such skills have been learnt, even if they become rusty, they can be redeveloped, refined, added to throughout one's life.

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