While reading “Training for Dummies” (for inspiration working on the POSSE curriculum), I stumbled across a comparison of pedagogy (“the art and science of teaching children”) and andragogy (same thing, but for adult learners).
My first instinct, after reading it, was why would any learner willingly choose pedagogy? I sure don’t want to be treated that way. Take a look (table from page 27 of “Training for Dummies” by Elaine Biech):
|Learners are called “participants” or “learners.”||Learners are called “students.”|
|Independent learning style.||Dependent learning style.|
|Objectives are flexible.||Objectives are predetermined and inflexible.|
|It is assumed that the learners have experience to contribute.||It is assumed that the learners are inexperienced and/or uninformed.|
|Active training methods are used.||Passive training methods, such as lecture, are used.|
|Learners influence timing and pace in a learner-centered approach.||Trainer controls timing and pace.|
|Participant involvement is vital to success.||Participants contribute little to the experience.|
|Learning is real-life problem-centered.||Learning is content-centered.|
|Participants are seen as primary resources for ideas and examples.||Trainer is seen as the primary resource who provides ideas and examples.|
Well, duh. If I’m treated like an empty bucket dependent on benevolent sources of knowledge to swoop down and fill me and program me like a robot, of course I’m not going to come alive.
Perhaps the reason young people work like adults in open source communities is because that’s the way they’re treated. Nobody cares if you’re 15 or 51; if you’re willing to solve a problem they care about, and need to learn something from them in order to do it, they’ll teach you. It’s easier to be seen as a person and contributor rather than a collection of assorted demographics that say nothing about you as an individual case. Maturity as a self-directed learner is a pervasive expectation; you may initially need coaching to tackle projects fluently on your own, but it’s clear that that – not the arbitrary filling-out of grade checkboxes – is your goal.
If we want kids to become mature learners, we need to show them what mature learners look, act, think, and teach like – and expect them to be smart enough to drive their own process of figuring out how to get there, with the help of mentors and coaches along the way. Open source communities make andragogy accessible to anyone with access to a computer and the internet. No questions asked, no admissions applications to fill out – no need to prove you’ve got potential to learn before you’re actually allowed to try your hand at learning it. Don’t prove to us that you could learn it, we say. Go learn it, then come back and prove to us you did.
That… is my kind of school.