How education stops learning

By Jul.06, 2010

Liverpool born sociologist and Radio 4 broadcaster, Laurie Taylor, gave this guest lecture last week at the University of Liverpool. He is well known in academic circles for his long-running column in the Times Higher Education

He says that we constantly hear about the virtues of education but it’s always assumed that such education involves learning. He questions the value of formal learning in educational insitutions, colleges and universities – learning that is based on acquiring credentials – and further, claims it is counter-productive. Some of his other questions:

How can formalised learning encourage us to think more widely and deeply, when we learn within narrow disciplines and specialisms?

Is formal education the only way in which we acquire learning?  (No)

How do other types of learning lead to general enlightenment in our society?

My questions:

What other types of learning are you involved with?

How does this contribute to your person and your roles in society?

Is university the only place where real learning takes place?

Your thoughts?

6 Comments

6 thoughts on “How education stops learning

  1. 9 years ago  

    I think Sir Ken Robinson sums things up quite well too in this RSA Animate. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zDZFcDGpL4U

    The late Russ Ackoff had a wonderful quote. “The person who learns most in the classroom is the teacher. ” He suggest that the best way to learn is to let the students teach themselves and have the faculty available for support if needed.

    It might also be useful to consider the work of Knowles (Andragogy) and Hase (Heutagogy) when asking the question how can we learn?

  2. 10 years ago  

    What other types of learning am I involved with?

    The most enlightening learning for me takes place when I am part of group of people who are interested in encouraging, supporting, and helping each other.

    Examples include:

    1) A commercial organisation where senior managers (from different organisations) attend a monthly meeting. The meetings are broken down into two parts. First an expert speaker presents on a subject which the group have asked for learning on , and later individuals bring issues to the table and seek the input of other members in solving these issues. The monthly meeting is followed up with a 2 hour mentoring session with an experienced mentor. This model works because of the level of trust exhibited between members.

    2) Learning from my 9 year old Daughter – during the daily why, what for , who conversations with my daughter I find myself constantly learning ( non surprise to scholars of pedagogy). In an effort to cement my own learning I often explain to her some of the things that i have read or discussed here at Salford. Proof — if there is such a thing — that the best way to learn is to attempt to teach something else.

    3) The final example is the constant learning that is taking place between the colleague whom I share an office with, my PhD supervisor, and other PhD students. Some of the learning is structured; the majority appears to be random, serendipitous, and highly valuable.

    How does this contribute to your person and your roles in society?

    Being a part of the University family places me in a privileged position where I can learn, learn with, and share what I have learned both with colleagues, contacts outside the university, and my family.

    It seems to me that having the opportunity to learn can make a great contribution to society. My role at the local hospital, and my contribution to understanding their challenges, has been enhanced by my learning experience.

    Is university the only place where real learning takes place?

    Not at all, however my university experience has provided a scaffolding for me to learn more richly and a better understanding of how to apply the learning.

    Your thoughts?

    It seems to me that the old way of working has ended. There are no definite career paths for most of our students; the old way of working has ended as organisations — even the University of Salford — move towards flat structures. The question is then -what should we learn here at University.

  3. 10 years ago  

    What other types of learning am I involved with?

    The most enlightening learning for me takes place when I am part of group of people who are interested in encouraging, supporting, and helping each other.

    Examples include:

    1) A commercial organisation where senior managers (from different organisations) attend a monthly meeting. The meetings are broken down into two parts. First an expert speaker presents on a subject which the group have asked for learning on , and later individuals bring issues to the table and seek the input of other members in solving these issues. The monthly meeting is followed up with a 2 hour mentoring session with an experienced mentor. This model works because of the level of trust exhibited between members.

    2) Learning from my 9 year old Daughter – Dusing the daily why, what for , who conversations with my daughter I find myself constantly learning ( non surprise to scholars of pedagogy). In an effort to cement my own learning I often explain to her some of the things that i have read or discussed here at Salford. Proof — if there is such a thing — that the best way to learn is to attempt to teach something else.

    3) The final example is the constant learning that is taking place between the colleague whom I share an office with, my PhD supervisor, and other PhD students. Some of the learning is structured; the majority appears to be random, serendipitous, and highly valuable.

    How does this contribute to your person and your roles in society?

    Being a part of the University family places me in a privileged position where I can learn, learn with, and share what I have learned both with colleagues, contacts outside the university, and my family.

    It seems to me that having the opportunity to learn can make a great contribution to society. My role at the local hospital, and my contribution to understanding their challenges, has been enhanced by my learning experience.

    Is university the only place where real learning takes place?

    Not at all, however my university experience has provided a scaffolding for me to learn more richly and a better understanding of how to apply the learning.

    Your thoughts?

    It seems to me that the old way of working has ended. There are no definite career paths for most of our students; the old way of working has ended as organisations — even the University of Salford — move towards flat structures. The question is then -what should our students learn here at University?

  4. 10 years ago  

    I can’t think of a time or place where I’m not learning

  5. Frances Bell

    10 years ago  

    A PGR blog is a good place to discuss the nature of learning since hopefully most learning done by PGRs is out of ‘formal’ settings.
    Much of my current learning (as an academic) is mediated in some way by web services (whether scholar.google or Salford e-library for solitary ‘consumption’ or Twitter for social finding and sharing).

    One of the benefits of being online is that I can find people with similar interests but also different points of view – my disciplinary and cultural mix is richer on Twitter than it is on my corridor.

    Obviously university is not the only place where learning takes place, but it is a good place to be set challenges, hear what people think and expose our ideas so others can help us polish them.

    In UK, we still have the privilege of setting our own curriculum and assessment so we can resist the dead hand of standardised assessment (a real danger of separating credentials from delivery).

    For me one way of connecting informal and formal learning is for the learner to reflect on the processes involved in each. We can then see what connects productive and satisfying learning experiences – in my case passion for the subject, fruitful interaction with others, learning to do things that makes the world a better place (in however small a way).

  6. 10 years ago  

    Is real learning taking place in universities? :o)

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