Child-led Learning – #BlogchatterA2Z theme reveal

I’m often asked how I taught/ teach V a variety of concepts. And when I say that all her learning is child-led, people have a lot of questions and doubts.

What do I mean by child-led? 

At one point of time, scientists believed that a baby is like a blank slate or a tabula rasa. She has no knowledge and would not be in a cognitive position to understand complex ideas until she turns 3. But, research on how the brain works and learns has come a long way now, and we know that infants possess the capacity to explore, question and actively learn if given the right stimuli.

As a biology teacher, I’d love to talk to V about DNA and the works. But I also understand that doing that would be detrimental and I need to fan the flames in the direction she wishes. She loves geography ( a subject I don’t understand to date. I would be in Alaska by now, if it weren’t for google maps) and all I do is give her plenty of opportunities to explore about topics of her interest and learn on her own.

I do not give her any answers to questions. What I do, is talk a lot, listen keenly to her questions and give her plenty of opportunities to research or figure out the answers on her own through play and the environment. Every moment is a learning opportunity if only we look keenly, no?

When learning is child led, she adds knowledge to already existing data, making it deep

Why do I focus on child-led learning ?

1. First of all, because the pressure to ‘teach’ is off! The learning onus is on her. She can absorb as much or as little as she wants. Also, the way I look at a stimulus is starkly different from how she looks at it. For example, we saw fish in a fish tank, and I was interested in knowing the names of the different fish. V, however was in awe of how they swim and how they sleep.

2. Learning is concrete.

So although I’d like to think of my brain as a beautiful, organised and well-dusted book shelf with alphabetically arranged concepts that I can easily access, research shows that’s not how it is. It is a complex web involving different areas of the brain. And the funny thing? It’s always changing. Neuroplasticity means that any learning significantly changes not just our behaviour and thinking but some areas and connections in our brain as well. So when learning is child led, she adds knowledge to already existing data, making it deep. It isn’t isolated into subjects and chapters with no real connection to one another. Drawing from the same example as before, I think, her learning about gills/ water currents or food webs on her own, observing the same fish-tank when she is ready is way better than me ‘teaching’ it  separately without context.

3. There is love for learning

I’m an educationist but hey, I hated a few subjects in school. I still shiver at the thought of economics. When a child’s curiosity is always active and she is constantly learning on her own, love for learning automatically happens and is maintained.

4. Less mistakes

Okay, this one I haven’t experienced yet, but research on rats shows that most possibly, when a child whose love for learning is maintained and is constantly learning from the environment, is put in any learning situation, they tend to learn faster from their mistakes and thus learn quickly, making adapting to situations real easy.

Coming back to my theme for this #blogchatterA2Z , I’ve decided to talk about 26 examples of child-led and child-initiated learning that has happened with V. It all starts with a question and sometimes we talk to her about it, provide a few learning activities and books to make it a learning unit. The blogs would include the initial question and the experiences that followed. I’m aware that learning is a continuous and dynamic process, which is why I do not have any upcoming content ready.

Lastly, #blogchatterA2Z is a challenge that happens every April where we write 26 blogs in 30 days, one for each letter of the alphabet A to Z.
I hope to complete this gargantuan task. And although it is a personal recounting, I hope it inspires atleast one other person to look at every little moment and a child’s brain from a different perspective.


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