Traditional education has been focused on “gaining knowledge”, rather than building capabilities to interact with the real world. Of course, possessing knowledge is an important part of capability. However, developing well adapted people to constructively participate in, and contribute to, society requires application skills and social confidence in addition to this knowledge.
The best type of education to develop such individuals adds a range of interactions around the knowledge acquisition to provide context and experiences to make more realistic life experiences. There have been several approaches described over the years to provide more comprehensive education. These have been listed under a range of banners including, Action or Experiential Learning, Social Learning, Student-centered, Project-based, Problem-based and the list goes on. However, they have not yet become mainstream. One key insight from these approaches is that learners are able to explore in a socially connected ways with a divergent approach to generate a range of options, instead of just remembering facts they were told (and may not fully understand in practice).
A recent article I co-authored with David Goodwin combined many of the principles of these approaches as well as some emerging ideas on learning to develop the social ecosystem around the learners to optimize the outcomes many. We described this as Applied Social Learning Ecosystems and shared the benefits this generates in the positive learning experience. One positive outcome is this ecosystem provides a constructive environment in which the learners build the social, behavioural and cultural capabilities along with the skills and experiences to apply their learning across different future contexts (in addition to the knowledge). Furthermore, the knowledge is retained for longer because the experience of actually doing the activities builds the balance of mental, psychological, social and physical capabilities and the confidence to act in uncertainty.
In our current complex world where change is happening rapidly, one of the most important capabilities is learning to learn. What we know of the world changes so rapidly that we constantly need to be able to learn new insights quickly and critically analyse these, to determine what is best for our specific circumstances. Positive education experiences are necessary to ensure that learners want to continue to engage in lifelong learning.
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