Teachers must learn too

January 10, 1997

LIFELONG learning campaigners have produced recommendations for adult education including calls for radical changes in teaching theory and practice.

A Campaign for Learning report, produced from a series of workshops and seminars held in October last year, lists a series of recommendations designed to foster a society geared to encouraging and providing education for adults throughout their lives, particularly those who gave up on learning at, or immediately after, school.

Statistics reproduced in the report, From the Ivory Tower to the Street: Putting Theory into Practice, show the extent of the problem for adult educators and society as a whole.

Nationally, according to the report, around 8 per cent of school leavers are failing to achieve a single recognised qualification, rising to 20 per cent in the worst affected areas. Furthermore, 30 per cent leave without a single GCSE grade A to C. The report acknowledged that unmet needs, stemming for a lack of achievement through learning, can erupt into violence and other anti-social behaviour.

It says that a teacher's ability to recognise the barriers to learning that exist for many people, and adapt their methods of teaching accordingly, are crucial to changing the existing educational culture and building a true learning society.

There was agreement that teachers must also always be learners and that there is an important distinction between child education "pedagogy" and the things that work well in adult education "andragogy", namely the active involvement of the learner in the learning process.

Addressing teachers and educationalists the report says: "There are social, organisational, political and economic barriers to learning which need to be recognised. Recognition is the first step to overcoming them. Can your own institution be changed to help this process? Are you prepared to change yourself as part of the process?" Educationists are also urged to recognise the "messiness" of learning by which is meant the sheer complexity of theories pertaining to human neurology and other fundamental mechanisms of learning. The report says: "We need to embrace complexity, not be frightened of it."

Sir Christopher Ball, chairman of the Campaign for Learning, which is co-ordinated by the London-based Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA), said: "Our aim is to change the culture to persuade people that they should care about learning in the same way that we are all gradually learning to care about the environment or about our own personal health."

The report is aimed mainly, though not exclusively, at educational policy-makers, planners, providers and practitioners.

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