Learning Centered Education - Encouraging Student Responsibility For Learning

Accepting responsibility for their own learning can be a significant challenge to students. This is especially a problem if they have grown up in a school system that had an emphasis on objective testing against nation-wide standards. in that kind of learning environment it is commonplace to have teachers teach the test and focus on baseline level practice that translate well into multiple choice tests. Overcoming the economic incentives for this style of teaching is nontrivial.

It is a fair question to ask why bother? Why should a teacher who's looking to make a living buck the system to encourage students to take more responsibility for their own learning? if the school system in question has a history of lecturer based instruction this approach will be unpopular with both faculty and students as well as an administration which will equate standardized test performance with uninterrupted funding.

The short answer, of course, is that the modern world doesn't really care about our objective tests and are sources of funding but actively rewards those who take the initiative and personal responsibility to develop an inquisitive habit of mind. 30 years ago it was all very well for the education system to beat all signs of individuality out of our students, and support the industrial ages need for a compliant and obedient worker drone population. Even if that was ever a good and decent goal, which I doubt, the future demands freethinking creative and critical thinking individuals who can help us all navigate through an ocean of complexity.

The problems facing our world do not lend themselves to simple solutions by the simpleminded. Brute force and ignorance have gotten us this far, which seems to be on the edge of a cliff looking into oblivion. It will take creativity and critical thinking in the combined power of millions of freethinkers to pull us back from the edge.

It begins in the educational system in every classroom with problem-based instruction and a respect for diversity and multiple points of view. Encouraging teamwork and collaboration will help us build the kind of interconnected society of citizens who genuinely care for and rely upon each other.

Ken Long, Chief of Research, Tortoise Capital Management

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