How do Children Learn?
What children learn is very important and we often ask ourselves this question. However, how children learn is the key to what children learn. We need to understand and provide learning opportunities that are child centered and basic. No need to dress up and impress the parents – rather impress the children.
There is a large and ever-growing body of evidence that individual differences in young children in how they approach learning are the most important factors in the differences in their achievement in school. In other words, if we can pinpoint the how we will be able to deliver the what in a much more effective way. Children vary greatly in their dispositions for learning, ranging from believing in one’s own ability to succeed, being curious and having a strong motivation or hunger to learn.
We need to ask ourselves what type of programmes will encourage and support children as lifelong learners; children that will remain curious and children that will be motivated to learn. If one looks at the research, self-regulation where children take charge of their own learning is vital and an approach that should play a critical part of today’s pedagogy – at least if we look at the most effective programmes from around the world this is the number one actor that keeps children motivated.
Emotional well-being is a vital part in human development – the brain relies on adults that provide consistent and responsive care to young children – without this the child will not be able to develop self-regulation techniques.
Early attachment and consistent and continued love, care and support will allow a child to develop confidence to explore the environment, ask questions and solve problems. Without this crucial element the child will not be able to socially interact with other adults and peers - in other words the child will not be able to communicate with others. Communication is not only the basis of learning but also most definitely the basis of relationships.
If we want to really understand how children learn we also need to look at the difference between teaching and learning. We need to realise that teaching carries no weight if it is not shaped around the children’s learning. In my opinion this is exactly where the problem lies; we teach and hope that the children will learn – instead we should watch, observe and listen to what the children want to
learn and then teach. We need to move away from the content and allow children to direct the learning being involved in their own learning.
I often get requests from practitioners to help them with discipline or classroom management – guess what I tell them - stop trying to control the learning! Allow the children to explore, to look for their own motivation; stop your teaching! And let the learning begin. Children learn by experiences, interactions and opportunities, and by allowing this you will be allowed to use your knowledge and skills to facilitate learning.
That’s how children learn!
Pierce, G. Unsplash.com (image).
Stewart, N (2011). How children learn. London: The British Association for Early Childhood Education. 1-114.