In scripture, a disciple is a learner. At NCCS we use these terms interchangeably, for indeed they are. Discipleship/Learning is a heart attitude.
A sophisticated learning culture clearly articulates the difference between learning and teaching, and manifests this in its academic program.
Learning is an attitude; as a learner we choose to stay open minded. We exercise a collection of conceptual and emotional skills- suspending judgment, reflecting on our thinking, resisting being defensive, actively seeking to make connections, investigating our own presuppositions, etc. At NCCS this is consistent with our emphasis on discipleship. Discipleship is predicated on an attitude of learning. NCCS must frame a deliberate approach to teach learning and not just assume that students will develop these skills and attitudes on their own.
Learning is also the acquisition of knowledge and processes. Students have prior knowledge, which they refine and extend by incorporating new knowledge. Teaching leads to new information being internalized and stored in our long-term memory. Effective teachers master the facilitation of this process. Teaching strategies that promote this are included naturally and seamlessly into their lesson structure. These teachers know that they are called to support student learning and hold students accountable for progress during their course.
Thinking is essentially problem solving. It is what we do when we do not have the answer. Students who are not taught to think are not learners. Our curriculum must incorporate students solving problems. Ideally they will use the information that we have taught them as a base for this, but it must be more than that.
The classical model of education presents a valuable framework to managing learning and thinking.
- Grammar stage: “Do I really comprehend the content matter here?”
- Logic stage: “What questions do I need to ask, and what tools do I need to analyze this position in order develop my own perspective?”
- Rhetoric level: “How do I advocate the position that I develop?”
There is considerable danger in valuing thinking above content. A classical framework mitigates against this by emphasizing a different sphere for content (Grammar stage), and thinking (Logic stage). Mastering the content stage is the natural domain of the teacher. The logic stage is more difficult and requires us to deliberately develop a collection of thinking strategies as an essential element of our educational worldview.
We are a relational community before we are an informational community. Effective relationships are the core of education. Instructional strategies do produce improved learning, but they do not give learning its soul.