November 19th, 2012

A “Behaviorally Different Species” of Learner

Ben Williamson

In the traditional conception of school, the learner was invoked as a docile individual who turned up to school to be instructed in a core canon of curricular content and codes of behavioral conduct. Now, in our digital times, the learner is being reimagined as a more active, interactive, connected and collaborative individual—a behaviorally different species to the normalized learner of mass schooling. The contemporary connected learner travels continually between formal and informal sites of learning, building networks of knowledge through the use of sophisticated software and the real-world application of soft skills, positive attitudinal dispositions, and behavioral competencies. For such a learner, the behavioral competencies of communication, perseverance, interaction, thinking skills, emotional literacy, empathy, problem-solving, and other personal attributes are now increasingly desirable in a world where more jobs will be recruited on soft performance criteria such as relationship management and customer satisfaction.

I’ve been thinking even more about this shift away from formal (traditional) learning to more informal learning within the classroom. Could we at some point give credit (real credit) to a student for the development of those “soft skills” as they manifest themselves within her work to learn something she chooses, not something that we have assigned her to learn? 

Echoes of not valuing the immeasurable…

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