Understanding child centred learning and education

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Learning is such a delicate aspect of growing up. The more we allow child centred learning, the more we nurture kids who will ask the right questions.

Child centred learning is gaining more popularity even in mainstream education today, but how far are we really willing to let kids explore creativity?

Below is a scene from a kindergarten classroom

A teacher, and 2 children.

Teacher: Come children see what I have here ………. a ……..
Children (together): That’s a star!!
Teacher: I am going to teach you how to make a star.

The teacher draws the star for each child on the paper, “let me show you how to do it”. The child keeps saying “I want to do it myself” but the teacher insists on ‘helping’. She proceeds to cut the star for the first child, till she notices that the other child too is not doing a good job. She leaves the first child and goes to the next ….. “No, No, let me show you ……”.

The result

Two stars cut almost beautifully, perfectly by the teacher. The part cut by the children is obvious and the activity ends with pleas from the children that they want to do it themselves.

The above episode highlights the following aspects of child centred learning which can help us come to an understanding of sorts:

1. Children have an inherent need for activity, which is evident from the enthusiasm they showed at the beginning of the activity.
2. Children naturally want to be independent and excessive instruction and support from an adult dulls this natural instinct and they lose interest.
3. Too much instruction by an adult is a deterrent to their ability to take initiative.
4. Imposition by an adult results in undermining creative thinking.

For the teacher the completion of the task and the end result was more important. The stars had to be fit for display. The children’s delight in doing the activity came across clearly. For them the process held far greater importance than the outcome.

This is a very important aspect of a child’s mind that both parents and educators must understand. It does not matter if the star looks like nothing on earth. What is important is that he has made it himself. The child’s own perception will take him towards perfecting the star by and by.

The motivation to cut a perfect star will come from within, but it will happen only if he is given the opportunity to develop confidence in himself. If he is continuously made to believe that he cannot do it ‘the right way’, he will stop trying.

When a child attempts to do something his effort needs to be recognized. Minimal support given by an adult needs to be so subtle that the child feels that he has been able to complete the task without help.

This is another common scene from a home environment

Scene 1: A child is trying to build a bridge with blocks. Mom comes along and says — “come let me show you how to make a bridge” and starts making it amidst pleas of “I want to make it myself”, which Mom disregards. She shows the completed bridge to the child and says “See? Now you try and make it”.

The result: A frustrated child believing a little less in his own ability to make a bridge.

Scene 2: Now imagine the same situation but with a different approach by the mother. A child is building a bridge. Mom sits nearby and observes the child. From time to time she asks questions “Have you been on a bridge?” “Is your bridge looking strong?” “Try fitting this block”.

The mother guides the child with leading questions and suggestions resulting in a fine looking bridge made entirely by the child.

The result: A child satisfied with his attempt, more confident of his own abilities!

This article originally appeared on Medium.

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