Before delving into this matter, I want you to understand my perception about learning. I don't see learning as going about satisfying curiosity or memorizing names, dates and formulas, but as the ability to do something that previously could not be done. That is, knowledge is know-how.
In this context, learning is the capability to incorporate a chance. When I can perform something new, it opens a series of alternatives that I did not have before, for example, if a kid learns how to swim, now he can go to the beach, party in houses with a pool, go swimming, and so on. Learning is about change; and if one changes, the world and its possibilities also change.
From this perspective, I think there are barriers to learning, and the most important is the test. Although its function is to show evidence of an educational progress, the test by itself has gained significance, powerful, and disturbing social relevance.
For example, when a kid comes back home from school after taking a test, parents ask: what grade did you get?, if he says "100" it's all happiness and reward. The message we send is that his acceptance, in this context, is determined by the grade obtained. But tests are designed to measure learning out of the context for which that learning needs to be used.
What happens if we change the question? Instead of asking, what grade did you get? We ask, what did you learn today? Then we enjoy a moment of happiness from what was learned that day, then the kid will understand that his acceptance comes through what he learned rather than the grade marked on his paper.
As teacher Michael Soskil states, "people always say, 'We need tests because life is full of tests.' That's nonsense. Life isn't full of tests. It's full of assessments."
That small change in our perception of learning modifies the position from where the student is looking up at learning. If recognition comes a grade, he will do everything necessary to obtain it, but grades as an end goal are short-term, fragmented, and subject to comparison and competitiveness; on the contrary, if the focus is on knowledge, this leads to value learning as a continuous and long-term process.
A grade may be valid as long as priority is given to the student's image of himself as an outcome generator and not the grade by itself. The individual's results are achieved based on his potential, and not in comparison with the rest of his classmates.
Education demands urgent reflections, we must educate for a society of uncertainty where production and knowledge management begins to be out of formal logic, we must educate to face the complexity of a democratic society and its diversity, educating for innovation in contexts of high social complexity.
So I think we need to change the discussion of learning from the quantitative to the qualitative scenario.
As teachers we have a challenge and a big responsibility, today more than ever we must be teaching to think, to ask new questions and mainly to teach our kids that they are not simply a grade on a paper.
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