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How to make children learn?

As a very “active”, “curious”, and “energetic” boy of the family, I grow up under the “bamboo stick” policy. Even as young as I was, I could easy understand the powerfulness of this policy after the “trial-run” session given by my mother. It happened when I did not finished my homework and failed my school test. My mother tried the newly bought bamboo stick on me. Since then, bamboo stickssssss entered my early life and grew up with me.

When I knew that I was going to be a father of my son, like all parents, I started to read books after books in order to learn how to be a good father. The very first lesson that I learned was contradictory to the ways that I was bought up by my parents. This very first lesson was “You do not need to hit your son in order to teach him.” It seemed that the only weapon (a bamboo stick) of parents was taken away. I felt so helpless and confused. I dare not to go aginst all the psychologists and educational researcers’ findings. They cannot be all wrong.

There are different models and theories about how people learn such as associationism (C. Hull, 1934), classical conditining (yr. 1940 Nobel Prize winner I. Pavlov, 1928), Operant Conditining ( B.F. Skinner 1938), Social Cognitive Era (Chomsky, 1957), Piaget’s Drive of Equilibrium(Piage 1959), Sociocultural Theory of Development (L. Vygotsky), and more resently cognitive psychology, etc. Among them the most famous one is behaviourism. We have been applying this theory to facilitate our teaching efficiency and/or reinforcing certain behavior of our kids for years. Check if you have use any of the following startegies or phases:

“If you can get a good result of this test, I will bring you to Disney Land or buy you a present.” “If you don’t go back to you table and study for the exam, I am going to hit you with a bamboo stick.” “Peter, you are such a good boy helping me to tidy up the room, I am going to give you one golden star sticker.”

Behaviourism based on the believe that people’s behaviors will be affected by external factors, such as punishment and award. People will do more of one thing if he is awarded; and people will stop doing one thing if he is punished. From our daily experience, we tend to agree with the model of behaviourism. But we may also question behaviourism which cannot solve all problems. There is time our golden start sticker do not work anymore. We might also find that the school results are not improving, no matter how hard or how many times we hit the children with the bamboo stick/ruller. We try all our best to explain to the kids and expected him/her can learn. But he/she does not learn everytime. After one second, he/she asks you the same question. Then we feel frustrated and helpless.

I ran through all these frustration and emotional challenge myself. Until I tried the mixture of constructionism model and motivation theory. Then I left the struggling of finding effective ways to “push” the facts and contents learning, such as memorizing skill and cognitive learning model. (Although those technical skill do help people to learn.) I turned to focus at helping the children on the value estabishment and motivation. The result is a successful establishment of a autonomous attitude with the child.

In an automonous learning environment, the children learn in a relax and playful environment. All kids are born with the ability and curiosity to learn. New Knowledge are introduced on the foundation of old knoweldge that they have learned (constructionism). Focus on the achievement, instead of failure (but we need to be honest about failure). Destroying a person ego and self-confidence is easy. It takes only 5 to 15 minutes. But to re-build a person confidence, self-efficacy and interest in something that will take months and years of work.

Don’t expect the young children will become a “superman” the next morning after the practise the model, it takes time. The essence of automonous attitude building is that we need to maintain the interest of learning, keep on motivating them, find meaningful reason to learn, celebrate any improvement and good effort that children made.

Don’t destroy the interest and motivation of learning and schooling. This is more important than learning one more word or get a better grade in a test or exam. In today’s society, people can get their university education a lot easier than 20 years ago. No person except oneself can stop an adult start his study or learning if he wants to. But pressure can be a effective learning catalist. Building up the children psychological strengthen to face a challenging world seems to be a way out. We cannot go against the “performance oriented” approach of our society. But we need also to teach our children to be “learning oriented” for life-long-learning.

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