In SelfDesign Learning Community our praxis is to support learning in all its shapes, forms and guises and so we ask each child or youth, “What do you really, really want to learn about?” as a way to initiate a learning plan process. In this way we enrol learners as collaborators and co-designers of what will emerge as their de facto curriculum for the school year.
Following many years of this practice I can confirm that learning is as varied as each learner, reflecting their unique and diverse learning interests, something that will likely come as little surprise to educators or parents.
As a SelfDesign educator wearing various hats ranging from instructor to learning coach to supportive observer (which is pretty typical of our educator role), the learning I have seen emerge over the years has come to form in my imagination as a caravan of the most exotic, delightful, interesting and profound insights I could ever have imagined as an educator.
From this perspective I see children developing skills, accepting challenges, surprising me with their innate wisdom, and consistently surpassing expectations and limiting beliefs I and many others might otherwise hold of what learning ‘should’ look like. In focusing on the learning about which they are most passionate, children cook, focus on athletics, experiment with robotics, have experiences of living like medieval serfs, design and make their own movies, and they don’t stop doing these things – and learning! – until they are satisfied with the results they create. And I don’t have to coerce them to do this, they are impelled by self-motivation.
In this learning I sense children experiencing a plethora of emotions: excited by a journey of discovery, delighted by their own breakthroughs, frustrated by bumpy challenges, and determined to try again. Some are playful and confident while others are serious and anxious. And I believe that what most sparks these learners, and their learning, are opportunities to explore subjects on their own terms, without fear of reprisal, and sometimes some support to keep learning, and trying.
The end result of this, as I’ve experienced so many times since the inception of SelfDesign, are learners – people – who are comfortable with their own sensibilities and confident in their own abilities to learn in and through all kinds of situations, again and again.
Learning looks and feels differently for each one of us, reflecting our human nature. And that’s all educators need to know and nurture to set a magical caravan on its way.
Written by Michael Maser, SelfDesign Learning Foundation and author of Learn Your Way! SelfDesigning the Life You Really Want