Home > Uncategorized > A New Way to Learn?

A New Way to Learn?

I have always had an interest in how schools engage students in their course work in order for them to get the most out of what they are learning. But at Sudbury Valley School, the students aren’t put into multiple classes that may or may not play a role in their future. It doesn’t matter if someone has a learning disorder or if they struggle doing certain things. At Sudbury, kids actually get to learn to do whatever they have passion for, and develop learning skills as they delve deeper into their subject of choice. They believe that students do learn by doing things ‘hands on’ and when they are genuinely interested in something, that motivation gives them the drive to learn and explore–whether it is through playing with planes or riding a unicycle. And with the skills they gain by mastering whatever they choose to do, they go into the future.

I think some can relate – I have always had moments that I felt that there were other things I would rather focus on in school instead of the subject at hand, but I knew that the curriculum would never allow things that stray from the core courses they believed were necessary to be successful in the future. In my opinion, this idea may actually help people who don’t do well in the structured setting of traditional schools. It also gives them the chance to truly focus and enjoy things that fascinate them-who wouldn’t want to learn about something they choose?

What do you guys think? Do you think that this way of learning will open up opportunities for people, or will it eventually create problems? Will they lack skills that are developed in the conventional school setting?

If you want to read more about the school, the link is:

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. HK
    February 19, 2012 at 3:59 pm

    I do believe hands-on learning is by far the most effective. And while learning what you love is the most rewarding academic experience, I also believe well-roundedness is essential to students today. Some math benefits even the most ardent of art students. Requiring students to take some courses in each field forces them to work outside their comfort zones. Maybe a history nerd will discover he has a passion for biology. We don’t want to let students constrain themselves to a particular interest too early in their lives in case it would mean missing out on an unrealized potential.

    • February 20, 2012 at 9:16 pm

      I am reluctant to accept this whole “hands-on” learning thing. To me, it appears quixotic, and, what is more, inefficient. For every “Ben” and “Jessica,” I’d bet there were a hundred more kids in the US who’d have been better served by reading a book than riding a unicycle, or by forgoing the hiking trip to the periodic table. There is something to be said for the traditional methods of education–they’ve benefitted you and me, haven’t they? We tried class out in the garden once, but, what with the honking cars driving by the bug bites, were all too delighted to reconvene the next day in the classroom.

      But maybe that’s just me.

  2. lexicory
    February 21, 2012 at 9:33 pm

    I absolutely think that hands-on learning is the best and most effective way to learn. It is a more effective type of experience, rather than just reading passages in a book or online. Careers, jobs, and trades are not learned from a book- they are learned through hands-on experience. You don’t learn to fly a plane from a manual, drive a car from the permit testing book, or run a country based on Rousseau’s social contract. You do all this by experience. You learn the best by mistakes that are made in the field. Oftentimes hands-on experience is successful in teaching kids new ways that they can do things, rather than the textbook process that is implemented for every other child in the school system. Hands-on learning is usually more comprehensive than a textbook, and fosters a greater understanding of a concept by letting the student actually see or do whatever is happening. Everyone will remember the day that they grew an ant farm and saw the actual colonies developing better than the day they read chapter 11 in a Pearson Learning book.

    • February 21, 2012 at 9:48 pm

      I, personally, completely agree. It is much easier for me to understand concepts when I am actually doing something myself, than reading about someone else doing them. However, I feel there are certain situations in which simply reading the material is the most effective. For example, it’s often said the best way to learn a language is to go somewhere where everyone else speaks that language, forcing you to learn it to get through the day. But there are many grammatical rules and exceptions that you may never learn unless you sit down and read a textbook that explains them. That’s not to say that you can’t be successful at something through just hands on learning, but I feel that in most cases, it’s best to supplement the experience you get with some type of traditional reading or studying of the subject.

  3. February 22, 2012 at 3:01 am

    As someone who wants to be a teacher, this article was especially interesting to me. I think a school like Sudbury sounds fantastic because children are able to cultivate their interests and focus on what they like to do. It gives students the opportunity to become sort of experts of their craft, and really be able to make a contribution to the community of their choice. Unfortunately, I believe a school like Sudbury is more of a fantasy, because it largely resembles recess. I don’t think we can really teach students in this extreme way.

    Students NEED to sit down, read a book, write an essay, and sit in a lecture. Here’s why: while the things we learn in a conventional school setting may seem boring, it’s not always about WHAT we’re learning (aka the content, like standard deviation) but HOW we’re learning it, and what skills we learn in different classes. While I may never actually use standard deviation in my life (which I hope I never have to…) the way in which I learned it, the approach the professor took to show me what it was all about, will most likely present itself again later in my life. And that is a huge part of what we are supposed to be doing in a more conventional school setting – learning how to learn. I think hands-on activities are an essential component to how we learn, but I do not think a school can thrive solely based on that single component. Like everything else in life, it takes a certain balance to achieve a great education.

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