The Blog

As a newspaper columnist, Nancy Devlin, Ph.D. has written over 700 articles on subjects related to education and parenting. Welcome to her Classroom!

Life Long Learners

The  purpose of education is not to produce students who  do
well  on standardized tests but to produce life-long learners  who
enjoy learning and are successful at it.  In order to  accomplish
this  goal,  children not only need to be taught  the  tools  for
learning  they also need to be taught how to use these  tools  so
that  they can continue to learn with or without the  supervision
of  adults, in or out of school.

I once had a kindergartner say to me, “I’ve learned how to read, now can I go home.”  I had the feeling that she never planned on opening a book again.  She had been turned off by the whole process.

Children take different roads to learning.  Some go quickly,
some  slowly, some are right-brained thinkers some are left.   No
one way is better than another.  They are merely different. These
differences  need to be recognized and accepted.   Children  need
not  be separated from each other because of  these  differences.
If   we   do  that,  we  have  what  Bruno   Bettelheim   called,
“Segregation,  New  Style.”   Children  need  to  learn  how   to
appreciate and negotiate with all styles of learning.  They  need
to be exposed to the experience of hearing a topic discussed  and
thinking, “How interesting.  I never thought of it that way.”  At
the  same  time,  different styles and rates  of  learning  among
children  should not hinder their development or their  potential
for  creativity.   We  need  to develop  workers  for  the  whole
spectrum of jobs in our country from creative leaders to creative

How can we do this given our diverse population?  One way is
to  recognize  that  there  are  several  types  of  teaching  in
elementary  school.   One  type includes basic  skills:  reading,
writing and math.   Another involves the acquisition of  concept
and the analysis and exchange of ideas as in the humanities,  the
natural and social sciences.  Children can be divided into groups
according  to learning style and rate of learning when teaching a
skill, then brought back together as a group when using the skill
as a tool for learning.   For example, it makes sense to break up
the  class into homogeneous groups according to skill level  when
teaching   reading,   but  to  have  heterogeneous   groups   for
cooperative learning lessons.

This philosophy holds true for gifted and talented programs.
Children  in  the  best  of  these  programs, instead  of   being
completely  segregated, spend time with other children.   However,
the distribution of their time can be different.  Gifted children
need less time acquiring skills and learning facts and more  time
exchanging  and analyzing ideas.   They can spend some time  with
all  of  the  students  learning how they  think  and  arrive  at
conclusions and being contributing members of this group and some
time with a small group of select students like  themselves.   It
helps  also  to remove the top students from the group  at  times
because  it  allows the next level of students a chance to be  on

Many  children  are  spending  most of  their  time  at  the
knowledge level of learning.  That is they are learning to label,
repeat, reproduce, list and describe.  Most students will  forget
this  information quickly because it is not put to any  practical
use and is never applied or used as a tool.  We want more for our
students.  We want them to be creative critical thinkers who  use
what  they are learning to further their knowledge and  to  solve
problems  and  answer their questions.

Posted in Educational Reform, From Experience, Getting the Most For Your Child, Labeling, Parenting, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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