Written by: Tatjana Jurišić
This is a Serbian-English translation of the blog post “Koliko i kako učimo decu kreativnosti?”, written by the same author.
Abraham Maslow, a renowned American psychologist, said: “I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.”
Maslow’s thought-provoking idea can be applied to all areas of life, teaching and learning English as well. If we only use one method of learning within one and the same system, it could hardly help us reach our goals. Many learners, children, and adults alike face challenges such as lack of motivation, fear of making a mistake, increased self-doubt if they don’t make progress fast enough; they often change schools/teachers, and not a small number of them, in the end, gives up.
The main problem lies hidden deep within the system of education, which, unfortunately, still cannot offer useful answers to many of these questions. For instance, the current educational system in Serbia is mainly based on reproductive learning and competitiveness. Many parents and children have only one thought in mind – achieving straight A’s. Information and knowledge have never before been available to us as it is now, in the digital era. However, even though they have constant access to the internet, children, and adolescents, as well as their parents, still have many difficulties in finding effective approaches to learning. They keep chasing academic success, while many of the children’s needs and crucial skills they should develop are left behind. During the last decade, the accelerating speed of change has had a great impact on the curriculum and has made the situation (and the curriculum) even harder. At the moment, we are in a dire need of the effective system of education that emphasizes the development of the breadth of transversal skills (such as communication, collaboration, problem-solving, critical thinking and decision-making). Moreover, young people also need proper training and mentorship on how to use digital sources in the process of learning, for their own benefit later on, in life.
Many experts on education would agree with this fact. “Reproductive learning does not help children develop their cognitive abilities. We should teach children how to think.”1 – this is the main topic of the blog post written by Tamara Kostić, published on the official website of the NTC system of learning. NTC system and program is the result of the years of research within the fields of childhood development and creative learning. The current system asks children to learn by heart – this is the root of the problem. The same approach is mainly used when it comes to teaching English in public schools – learning grammar rules is on the list of priorities and many schools still use the traditional grammar-translation approach to teaching.
Bloom’s taxonomy (Bloom et al, 1956; Krathwohl, 2002; image taken from www.ntcucenje.com)
Bloom’s taxonomy (Bloom et al., 1956; Krathwohl, 2002) is an ordering of six cognitive skills that can be used in the process of teaching and learning: remembering, understanding, applying, analyzing, evaluating and creating. Reproductive learning is closely related only to the first skill: remembering. In order to actively engage all the other skills, we have to develop and use more creative methods and approaches that will enable children to think for themselves, search for possible answers, enjoy the process of learning and be able to feel satisfied once they achieve their goals and learn something new. In such a way, children will become aware of the inner motivation, not just the external one, and be able to understand why learning actually matters – it develops a growth mindset, self-confidence, and intelligence; it helps you see the world from many different perspectives, opens up your mind to new things and experiences; it makes you strong. Moreover, making one’s own choices and one’s own mistakes is the best part of it all. All of this should come first and be much more important than grades, exam results and peer competitiveness.
Many children cannot adjust to the standard system of learning in schools because the skills and talents they possess are not valued as “really useful“ (e.g. singing, dancing, drawing, etc.). The sad truth is that those skills can be of great importance when it comes to developing one’s identity, individuality, and creativity. After a few years spent sitting in such a school, children stop asking the “why” questions, their curiosity slowly fades and they quite soon turn into generations who are not able to think critically and the lack of self-esteem and critical 21st-century skills makes it hard for them to find decent jobs and take a responsible role of an adult.
How can this problem be solved?
Personal development is possible if we are ready to be creative, open-minded, patient and, above all else, determined. The fear of making a mistake can be overcome if children have the opportunity to do the tasks that are thought-provoking, interesting and engaging. If children are given a chance to find the answers on their own, at their own pace, they will be able to make progress with more satisfaction. What’s more, if they are given a chance to actively participate in the process of evaluation, i.e. the process of self-evaluation, they will be more aware of what they can and STILL can’t achieve, and, in the end, be more ready to face more challenging tasks.
“It is less important how many correct answers you have had on the last test, but whether and to what extent the questions have made you really think and connect the facts.“1
English lessons, as well as lessons of any other subject, should be challenging, engaging and fun. Learning a foreign language should encourage all learners to try to see what they are truly interested in. There are loads of different activities that can be used in the process of learning a language, for all types of learners – those who prefer reading and text analysis (visual learners), those who prefer listening activities (auditory learners), and also those who like to move and prefer more dynamic structure of the lesson (kinaesthetic learners). Children should be motivated to participate actively, freely exchange and share ideas, and learn how to collaborate with each other. The feeling of belonging, of being part of a group that learns and does something together is already a great achievement. The emphasis should always be more on the process, and less on the goal. This is something we should all be constantly reminded of.
“Instead of being on the level of merely remembering facts, we will have children who are able to create, evaluate and analyze; instead of the tiresome reproduction of the memorized facts, each child will have a chance to express endless imagination.”1
School should be a place where children can discover what they are truly interested in and passionate about. With the right approach, making a school such a place should not be that difficult.-
Read more at:
- 1 http://www.ntcucenje.com/reproduktivno-ucenje-za-mozak-skoro-da-ne-postoji-ucimo-decu-da-misle
- Like Stars on Earth (2007): https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0986264/