Don't bother being right - instead, enquire!

Don't bother being right - instead, enquire!

Learning actually became fun for me when I realized that I could never really arrive at an absolute "right answer that would be true under all circumstances", but I could get to endlessly discover what works and under what circumstances.

As an educator, my endeavor has been to support this sense of continuous engagement in my students, with their own, self-driven learning.

3 year old Karan figures out that one and one make two of something. When 8 years old, he finds that one half and another half, make one of something. And at 12, that one "one and a half" and another "one and a half" make 3. He tells me that the "one-ness" of something being added to the "one-ness" of another don't always add up the same.

Payal, when learning that her bicycle stays upright when she is in motion but not when it is stationary, isn't motivated by the right answer to riding a bike. What keeps her at it, is her delight in mastery when she can keep it going without falling, and is able to stay in control even when moving as slowly as possible. And you can imagine the size of her eyes when she sees a cyclist at a circus who can stand on a stationary wheel and another who almost touches the ground when riding really fast in a small tight circle. Wow!, she thinks, how is that even possible?

So does learning begin when we get interested in something and start finding out about it? We learners want to know ‘what will happen if we do this or that' and ‘what happens if we do this and that differently'. Our collective interest lies in learning by doing, by making, by co-creating, by experimenting, by observing, by imagining, and by failing. We reflect on what we have discovered and enhance our insight when we discuss our thoughts with each other. Working singly and together, we find ways to feed our sense of wonder. We are curious people. As curious as when we were born!

Why is it though, that such few teachers believe in learning with children? Re-reading my unpublished manuscript, written in 1991 after 3 years of class observation, offers me an insight: "How much easier is it (for teachers), to view a child's activity as having no sense of purpose of direction. How much easier, to direct their activities and tell them what to do, how to do it and when to do it. How much easier, to decide what we want from them, than to wait and discover, what they want from us."

27 years later, in 2018, it is still rare to find a teacher who waits patiently to discover what her students want. Even rarer to find one who accompanies his students on their journey of independent discovery. Most teachers, like Annie, continue to operate within the paradigm of right and wrong, in their hurry to explain every text word by word. Often they believe only one person in the class could possibly know the answer, and that person is the teacher. The power of being the one who has knowledge continues to drive teachers to teach. The red ink they wield says right (tick!) and wrong (cross!) across pages and pages of student endeavor, complying with what their teachers want.

I know Chetna and Ravi and Sara and others who like me don't get it right the first time, aren't wrong. We are intrepid explorers who don't know everything and aren't interested in being right all the time! Don't get me wrong. We aren't prepared to be written off as bumblers! We do have a sense of where we want to go. We enjoy figuring out which bits are working to get us where we want to be and which are not. We start off, then improve our processes, correct our course and move in the direction we think will give us an insight into our enquiry. And in the process of observing and reflecting, we discover new places that can be wondrous and also learn to identify those that are dead-ends. We analyse whats making us happy and what is not. We enjoy sharpening our tools and skills of using them. We innovate, develop great relationships and enrich our lives.

You could call us learners for life.

About the Author
Author: Kavita AnandWebsite:
Kavita Anand Co-Founder & Executive Director Adhyayan Quality Education Services & Founder Adhyayan Quality Education Foundation is an Ashoka Fellow; a fellow of the Royal Society for the Arts (RSA), UK; an associate of UCL-IOE; member of the Academic Council of Somaiya Vidyavihar; Consultant on India based programmes on Leadership Development with the National College of Teaching and Leadership, Nottingham, in collaboration with NUEPA in 5 States.

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