Monday, 23 September 2019

Do we encourage creative risk-taking and problem solving in all learners? Principle 10

My apologies for taking so long to get back to the 20 pedagogy principles in my book 'Pedagogy and Education for Life: A Christian Reframing of Teaching, Learning, and Formation'. My 10th principle is once again, a reflection of the fact that God made us to be creatures who learn. I have no doubt that at times, to learn we need to take risks, and in the process, make mistakes and even errors before solving problems that matter. I contend in my book that learners who fail to take risks effectively reduce their chances to be successful. This is true of all inventors, entrepreneurs, explorers, successful business people, sporting stars and so on. 

As teachers, we need to create 'space' and a degree of freedom to make mistakes and take risks. The Bible teaches us that God delights in his creation, the work of his hands and the sharing of these gifts with others (Exod 35:30–35). So too, he calls us to work in the world he has given us with a view to the future.

Above: An early sketch of Da Vinci's concept of how man might fly (Wiki Commons)

In Genesis 1 man is given the tasks of “filling,” “subduing,” and having “dominion” over the earth (Gen 1:26–28). This does not mean simply the function of maintenance, but also of developing, cultivating, and making so creation continues to move ultimately toward its end. God’s world is simultaneously in a state of decay and recreation. He calls us to use creative minds and willing hands to develop and sustain the world until his kingdom comes (2 Cor 5:1–21). Do we nurture and place value on the development of curiosity and creativity as we encourage students to act in and on the world as they await the return of Jesus?
Above: Martin Buber
Martin Buber argues in his book 'Between Man and Man' that in the newborn child God has implanted the "capacities to receive and imagine the world". In effect, the world, by which he means the whole environment, nature and society, actually educates the human being as it "draws out his powers, and makes him grasp and penetrate its objections.”

As I argue in my book, the successful teacher will create an environment in which children see problems to be solved, opportunities to puzzle over life matters, and the “strangeness” of the world as they seek to make their way in it as risk-taking and problem-solving learners.

Classrooms and schools where pedagogy, curriculum and teaching reflect a 'cookie cutter' view of education will graduate learners who are good at replicating, remembering and reproducing the knowledge and skills of others. They will be less successful at graduating original thinkers, reflective practitioners, inquiring minds and original thinking. Nor will they be good at challenging and testing ideas. There are risks of course in forming students who are prepared to question the ideas of others, for example they will test ideas, but ultimately such characteristics will contribute a great deal to resilience in young learners. I will build on these ideas when I discuss Principle 11 in my next post.