The Individual Learner as an Intelligent Learning System
Today, as in the past, learners achieve at different rates and reach varied levels of mastery and competence. Some of the reasons are due to qualitative differences within learners while others result from qualitative differences in the supportive learning environments available to the learners. Within the learner, we see that basic intelligence, goal-directed intelligence, character/emotional intelligence, and strategy intelligence can account for most of the internal power to learn. The biggest external factor has been found within learnerís homes. For example, the best predicator of the achievement level of students within a school is the educational and socio-economic level of the parents of the children who go to that school. Other studies have identified particular parent characteristics and habits that correlate highly with the achievement of their children. Because of the relative ineffectiveness in the way that learning opportunities are currently provided for children in schools today, it is interesting to note that no particular educational method has so far been found that correlates highly with achievement. In other words, when characteristics within the learners are accounted for, and home influence is accounted for, any significant school influence has so far not been detected by research. This should be no surprise when we consider that most learning principles in schools today are currently being violated.
Our national mission would be to provide optimum conditions for all learners to achieve that today are only provided for a few. There is every reason to believe that by applying what we already know about learning principles managed within a rich and individually responsive learning system, which we are certainly capable of designing, we will can experience a virtual revolution in learning and reach levels of national achievement beyond our imagination. Using what we have covered in chapters 5, 6, and 7, let us now focus on the individual as an intelligent learning system.
First consideration needs to be on protecting and nourishing the quality and effectiveness of each individualís learning cycles.
Active learners need access to information, the means of learning and mastering that information, and ways of applying it. Knowledge about their own learning systems, how those systems can best work together, identification of strengths and weaknesses, and ways of developing the skills involved are of major importance to active learners. This could be physical, such as their visual and auditory systems, or could involve the skills within each of the intelligence systems. A learner should be able to check, or have checked for them, each of these and receive help in their optimum development or use. These resources could be available as part of the national anytime, anywhere computerized learning system as well as the services provided in the newly reorganized and designed modern school system. As learners make efforts to plan and reach goals, the resources within the learner should be identified that can best help them be successful. Learners should become ever more aware of how their inner learning systems work together to maximize their success. The word meta-cognition comes closest to describing this, the ability to think about your own thinking and success strategies. Although this is seldom part of todayís school curriculum, it should be a major area of study for all learners if we are to maximize personal development and achievement.
Each learner would have access to one or more teachers or adult learning guides to help him or her organize the best and most relevant learning experiences available. It would be assumed that learners would spend some of their time in developmental classes much like those of today to have common experiences with other students and a general introduction or series of lessons on particular topics. The difference would be that these classes would only involve a fraction of a studentís day, and supplementary help to achieve mastery of any needed skills and concepts would be provided on an individual or small-group basis.
It would also be assumed that some time would be spent in a home-room type situation in which learners on an on-going basis could share their interests, activities, strategies, and experiences in pursuing their learning objectives. Some planning and scheduling could also occur here.
What would make things much different is the great increase in options for learning that could economically match needs and interests with particular opportunities for learning and development. Remember the great variety of options listed in chapter 4? These could now be utilized because of the development and availability of:
Each learner would have his or her own learning plan. Sometimes it would include being in a class of thirty other students, but may just as likely be carried out individually, in a small group, or in a much larger group. It could be carried out at school, but it could also be done at home or somewhere else in the community. Some areas or aspects might best be experienced in a club with other interested participants. Some areas or aspects could best be experienced as a student worker or assistant in a business. Because learning experiences can be managed as part of a modern, proficient organization and because other parts of our society would be engaged in contributing to this exciting, national mission, the wealth and specificity of learning options would continually increase.
Using the anytime, anywhere computerized learning system along with the computer-based personal learning program to access curriculum objectives, keep track of mastery, and manage options and personal plans, each learnerís efforts and accomplishments could coordinate with those of any school or home. Learners who could show mastery of an objective would not have to sit through generic classroom lessons involving those objectives. After double-checking the mastery, a school could check-off that objective. Schools would not have to use the national curriculum as is, but could select those objectives it wanted to concentrate on, or even use their own curriculum objectives, but cross-referenced to the national one to take advantage of the options available. Community organizations, such as the Boy or Girl Scouts, could also utilize the power of the national system by using the national options available, contributing their own options or resources to the national repository, or encouraging the learner with help and activities that could result in mastery of desired objectives. Many merit badges could relate directly to objectives valued also by the school system.
The possibilities are breathtaking! This could well be our future! But just as important, we can gain these advantages step by step starting now. We do not have to wait years for this to be fully developed. We can start now with what we have.
To understand how the power of learning can continuously be increased starting now, we need to focus on schools and families as intelligent learning systems, which we will cover in the next two chapters.