Learners of the 21st century need to become part of a workforce where they can function as independent thinkers. What can independent thinkers do?
- Have drill-down skills to get to the core of a challenge
- Have inquiring minds linked to strategic imagination
- Can visualize challenges and solutions
- Are skilled to continuously learn, de-learn and re-learn
- Can formulate their own viewpoint
- Can formulate questions
- Can organize their thoughts
How do learners become independent thinkers?
By being exposed to active, constructivist thinking, opposed to passive, behaviorist memorizing.
Teachers following the active teaching and learning approach involve learners in seeking answers, enable learners to create questions themselves. These teachers encourage debate and research, and the classroom environments are characterized by learners interacting with one another, resulting in productive noise going on most of the time. In classes where the teacher follows the passive learning approach, the only voice being heard is that of the teacher while the learners are required to passively absorb the knowledge and insight the teacher shares with them.
Opposed to passive learning, which is associated with textbooks and pre-formulated answers, active learning implies that learners discover and create their own knowledge and insight. Passive learning belongs to an era where learning is seen as an individual process where learners have to memorize not only the prescribed curriculum content, but also solutions to problems. Teachers who embrace passive learning regard their mind-sets and their ways of thinking and their subject as being the norm that ideally, each learner should live up to. Their calling revolves around cloning their mind-sets and ways of thinking.
For decades, education systems have been stagnated on passive learning where learners who are not meeting the pre-set norms and criteria are excluded from progressing. The system augmented the ‘process of exclusion’ by calling it, ‘failing’. Many learners fail, not because they cannot think and solve problems, but because they are not able to recall a critical mass of answers and pre-formulated solutions.
For 21st century learners, this kind of exclusion is absurd. They prefer an inclusive, group-oriented social-working environment. They want to ask questions and take risks and have control of what they are doing and saying. If teachers do not take note of the thinking preferences of 21st century learners, teachers will increasingly get the feeling that they are talking to themselves. Learners of the 21st century are learning consumerists. In the same way, they prefer specific clothing brands, and dislike others, they do not want ready-made answers and solutions. They do not want pre-digested packages of information dished up to them in bite-size chunks, of which the size is determined by how much an average learner can absorb within one sitting.
Is it not time to realize that the human memory is the brain’s worst faculty? It keeps letting us down all the time.