I recently reread an article written by fellow Canadian Lannie Kanevsky, published in Gifted Child Quarterly (Vol. 55, #4, Fall 2011, pp. 280-299). She writes,
“Students come to school to learn more than just subject matter; they come to learn to be learners. …self-knowledge is essential to effective, autonomous, life-long learning” (p. 296).
The focus of Kanevsky’s article is differentiation, and she discusses what educators should aspire toward in their classrooms. She talks about the importance of honouring children’s interests and preferences, and emphasizes the merits of collaborating with students in relation to program design and instruction (while still adhering to curriculum and professional standards, of course). Creativity, respect, and professionalism are integral to good teaching.
But what responsibility do students have for their intellectual growth? The best learning happens when kids are ready and willing to put forth the concerted effort that’s required so they can think, act, and grow in positive ways. What’s involved? They have to be persistent, learn from mistakes, ask relevant questions, and invest time and energy in practice. Kanevsky states that children have to “learn to be learners.” Yes, subject matter is important, but hard work, resilience, and passion are what fuels intellectual growth and well-being. This holds true at school, home, within the community, and elsewhere.
Kanevsky also talks about self-knowledge, and the importance of helping kids become more aware of their own habits of mind, aspirations, and capabilities. This kind of self-awareness takes place over time. It demands patience, reflection, encouragement, and support. Self-knowledge also accrues from lessons about these capacities, and teachers and parents are well positioned to model them.
Teachers, parents, and kids can work together to make intelligence-building meaningful, and in the end children will find that not only are they better learners, but down the road, they’re come to be more competent adults as well.