Friday, 2 October 2009

Learning is more effective when students are ready to learn.

In the Name of Allah, most merciful and most compassionate.

Readiness, exercise and effect
-Edward Thorndike-

What does it take for a student to ‘be ready’? We have to examine this issue from physical, mental and emotional pivots. Let us begin with the most important: mental and emotional readiness.

When someone is ready to perform some act, to do so is satisfying, not to do so is annoying. When someone is not ready to perform some act and is forced to do so, it is annoying
-Edward Thorndike-

Let us imagine a classroom situation consisting of a model teacher who provides mental, physical
and motivational challenge, who creates interests, who overwhelms her or his classroom with
primacy, recency and intensity of subject matters, undyingly, and a ‘black-box’ student. How the
student should think and feel is of great importance.

*Motivation is not about knowing the value of learning anymore. It is too loose a concept. It is not about promises of wealth and assurance like what motivators sell. It is in fact about the strong purpose and the clear objective which blooms from a definite self-reason of learning a specific subject matter.

*In order to ensure an active and perpetual process of self-reasoning, a student would have to
develop the logic on her or his own. If students would have to learn mathematics, let them know,
initially from the teacher, the extent to which knowing mathematics could take them. Let them
know that with mathematics they could understand real-life events by breaking them down to
smaller, analyzable components. Later, the students would have to get creative with reasoning in
favor of mathematics, themselves. Upon understanding the richness of that subject, students would be ready to seek extraneous applied knowledge of that subject matter on their own. This is where Lateral Thinking comes into play. This is when a healthy and ethical Self-realization is much needed. And in favor of nurture against nature, I would like to stress out that preschool education is to answer for this.

Henceforth, we shall treat the student as a unit capable of experimenting with thinking and
reasoning and the teacher as capable of guiding.

*The principal of effect dictates that learning is strengthened when accompanied by a pleasant or
satisfying feeling. The emotions associated with a teacher or a subject is to a student, selective.
Therefore, the first impression a teacher or a subject matter creates would later translate into
prolonged dispositions and elaborated associative mood and temperament. The teacher should, for instance, be careful with using punishment, reinforce positively and recognize and commend

*The basic needs of a student plus one are of no lesser significance. If education could secure these needs, then it is an over due security. These basic needs should be immediately available so that the students could be immediately ready. The ERG Theory (Clayton Alderfer) explains this in-depth. The needs of existence demands a student to be carefree of problems relating to physiology and safety. A student should have enough to eat, enough to drink, enough sleep, reasonable clothing and reasonable shelter.

*The needs of relatedness demands a student to have good social and external esteem. Healthy
connections must be established between the student and her or his family, friends, teachers and
environment. Moreover, these connections should be education-friendly in a sense that it promotes further learning. Let there be supportive teachers, friends and most importantly; parents of the student. Let there be minimal exposure of the student to negative influences generated by mass media, the society and the environment. This ideal is difficult for it is collective. Media should sanitize entertainment to avoid promoting hedonistic culture. Parents should continuously provide moral supports by example, through actions and verbatim. Teachers should be like model friends and model parents. Friends should then be the reflection.

*The needs of growth, that promotes internal esteem and self-actualization desires to be creative, productive and to complete meaningful tasks. The timid child of authoritarian parents is just like the timid student of an authoritarian school regime and the timid assembler of an authoritarian factory; looking forward to ‘weekends‘.

These fundamental needs and the preconditions it set are very delicate. A student who is exhausted or in ill-health obviously cannot learn much. If outside excessive responsibilities, interests, or worries weigh to heavily on her or his mind, if her or his schedule is overcrowded, or if problems seem insoluble, the student may have little to no interest in learning.

So far, it is clear that none of the factors that influence the way a student think or feel could be
completely separated from external factors be it at school, at home or in the streets, at least initially. Until we are ready to admit our wrongs, ready to change our behavior and to improvise the system, until the parents, the media and the society could agree on cooperation and understanding, there is no end to this problem.

*What the school as a single unit could do to compensate for the lack of cooperation on behalf of
parents and society is most importantly, suppress all forms of internal problems and petty politics. Assign a task only to those capable of handling it. Say no to favoritism. Tolerate not lack of competitiveness. Do not hesitate to discharge irresponsible teachers. Irresponsible he or she is when he or she could not deliver the aspiration of the education system, incapable of attending the students from angles other than formal education.

Know thyself, nothing in excess, make a pledge and mischief is nigh
-Temple of Apollo at Delphi-

*What is physical readiness? Contextually, several points related to this such good health and
fulfilled needs have already been uncovered. What is still unclear in the light of a discussion of how a student should be, is indefinitely how a teacher should be.

To facilitate students’ physical readiness, teachers would have to make amend. They have to be
ready to work extra hours. They have to consider the problems of their students as their own. They have to see the students as their own children. They could not afford to be lazy or opt for too much maternity leaves if it obstructs the education process. But none of these efforts should impede the active learning process as suggested by Thorndike. This is important to support self-efficacy of lifelong learning.

*I shall sum the arguments related to a coordinated school health into the several following:
physical activities, healthy school environment, nutrition, mental health (counseling), health
services and student, family and community partners.

*I shall sum the newly envisioned interaction between teachers and students into the following:
Focusing on responsibility, Providing company, skills and knowledge and creating critical thinkers.

*Actions should be put forth to counteract negative subcultures within school that are not education friendly. This is no rudimentary aspect of the enterprise. The school would have to identify them through often negative relations to work and study, to their negative relation to class, through their association with territory, physical or imaginative, through their stylistic ties to excess and exaggeration and most importantly through their refusal of conformation to the ordinary and should-be life of a teacher or a student (Ken Gelder, 2007). Take reading as an example. Negative subcultures could view readers as not appealing to their so-called modern, anti-establishment and
rebellious way of life.

*Religious value should also be actively instilled within the students. This would later spearhead
the correcting of moral values and the forming of good self-esteem and self-realization. To some
extent, it could also result good discipline among the students. But the school should be careful in
categorizing the students; those fit for religious programs and those who are not, because it could
lead to the birth of other subcultures.

Tell me and I‘ll forget, show me and I may remember, involve me and I‘ll understand
-Chinese Proverb-

*Active involvement from students, teachers, parents and society is what we need to help the
students to be ready. We need less politics and no favoritism in organizations, top-down. We need no one who points finger and everyone who walk the talks. A stolen idea at the mouth of a brown-nose talker is as good as nothing.

With that, I end my session.

Thank you.

Hafsah Bte. Dahlan.

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