From Regurgitation to Discovery

We are creative beings. source

“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn” (Benjamin Franklin).

Experiential Learning is Learning by Doing.

Think about how you taught yourself everything from the day you were born until you went to school. You were incredibly creative. Why did this stop? In his book, "Orbiting the Giant Hairball", Gordon Mackenzie ponders this question in depth.

The Read, Remember and Regurgitate model of learning permeates our schools in the way that Command and Control permeates our organisations.

Regurgitation means that things stay the same. At a point in our evolution when we most need creativity, we still teach compliance. And it leads to people unable to decide for themselves. They simply follow orders and that leads to disasters like Grenfell Tower! And looming disasters like Climate Change.

The regurgitation model is based on telling (often with explanations or proofs). It is reinforced with rewards for compliance and punishments for non compliance. The rewards are qualifications, and the promise of a "good career." The punishments are being bottom of the class or the threat of the dole queue.

"Doing" classes like needlework, cookery (home economics), woodwork and metalwork have disappeared from the curriculum. They are "too dangerous". Animals (pets) have disappeared from school as they are a "health hazard". Children's environments are micro-managed for woe betide anyone gets slightly hurt.

It is impossible to learn without the occasional failure. Those who never fail have never pushed the envelope (see the learning zone .) We teach a curriculum of fear and concealment of the truth lest it be hurtful. And we ask why we have young people lacking resilience.

Systems thinkers have attempted to introduce new ways of learning about systems. The focus has been on - teaching techniques (eg the Creative Learning Exchange (CLE) , Shell Nxplorers ) - Teaching habits (eg the Waters Center ) with tools - Story telling (eg Billibonk books ) - Through playing Systemic Games (Linda Booth Sweeney - Systems Thinking & Climate Change Playbooks) See Tragedy and Trust - Playing computer simulation games (CLE, MIT Climate Interactive , MIT Fishbanks, Vester - Ecopolicy) - Competitions (Nguyen/Bosche Ecopolicy , Recent SDS - Covid modelling competition )

Others have attempted to embed systems thinking in the teachers (Swiss paper - Patrick Kunz ) or as a school management tool (eg Senge's Schools that Learn). Senge's current program is Compassionate Systems (see this MIT page ).

The focus is always on "safe" learning in a classroom.

Instead of playing games, why don't we go out and learn in the real world? Give kids the agency and freedom to intervene in real systems and create real change. This is my 4i's model. See The 4Is.

This works best when children engage in the systems they deeply care about. See Slave to Love.

We must also remember that we are all teachers and learners all our lives. It is a big responsibility. We influence every living being we are in contact with. Think about it.....

The key thing we can all do is ask more questions. We can do this with very young children (see A Tale of Poo.

We can also model the 4i's ourselves. It is my hope that you will do this, especially with children. It may be our only hope...

Recently I had a revelation. I could create a new educational system rewarding the 4i's in practice. Take a look here: See the System.

I came across a guy called Bob Coulter in 2019. He has very similar ideas to ours. I read his book "Building Kids' Citizenship through Community Engagement". I'll reconnect with him as I'm sure he'll be interested in our project.

I also met a lady called Eleanor Duckworth last year. Her book "The having of Wonderful Ideas" is great too. She worked with Piaget.

John David Garcia created a school for Creativity. You can read about it here:

The Primary school I am working with in Oxford works with a curriculum specialist called Debra Kidd. Her "Teaching Notes from the Front Line" is interesting. In it she says "We are at the time I write this, in need of a revolution in education. This is a strong statement and I don't use it lightly". In her "Curriculum of Hope" she creates lesson plans that weave subjects together. It is still the old fashioned model of learning but more systemic.

Recently I've been involved in a process called Designed Ingenuity. It is a step up from Debra's curriculum weaving taken from the world of "Agile" computer systems development. It is a process of discovery and deeply connecting learners that is highly systemic.

I think my 4i's model is closer to Paulo Freire's model. Empowerment, Experiments and Collaborative learning.