Why Children Need to Learn for Themselves

Teachers are absolutely critical in any society. They are the people who guide the next generation to fill the roles society demands of them.

But teachers and teaching are often emphasized over creative exploration and self-learning. Is there harm in this?

According to two studies from MIT and UC-Berkeley, there children who undergo direct instruction, as in teaching (“Pull the toy this way”) are more limited than those who are free to play and explore a topic (“Did you see what I did? What else can we do?”). Direct instruction is good for obtaining specific results, such as those necessary for standardized tests, but it also limits their ability to create unexpected conclusions and new ideas.

Why does this happen? One theory is that children assume teachers know everything only choose to learn what the teacher shares. Another is that spontaneous learning is unsupported by schools and preschools that rely more and more on standardized testing.

In my own experience, Japanese students have quite a lot of difficulty learning new language patterns, such as “have an eraser” vs. “have dogs.” After explicitly explaining patterns, they are better able to learn, but they do not often understand the new patterns on their own. This could be due to the overwhelming influence of direct instruction in Japanese schools.

Research shows that children need to learn for themselves, using spontaneous learning based on creativity and exploration. And it also shows, in a way, that teachers must improve themselves in order to produce more creative, innovative thinkers.

Source: Preschool lessons: New research shows that teaching kids more and more, at ever-younger ages, may backfire..

Image: US Embassy Manila