|How Children Learn (IAE - IBE - UNESCO, 32 p.)|
Learning is primarily a social activity and participation in the social life of the school is central for learning to occur.
For many researchers, social participation is the main activity through which learning occurs. Social activity and participation begin early on. Parents interact with their children and through these interactions children acquire the behaviours that enable them to become effective members of society. According to the psychologist Lev Vygotsky, the way children learn is by internalizing the activities, habits, vocabulary and ideas of the members of the community in which they grow up.
The establishment of a fruitful collaborative and co-operative atmosphere is an essential part of school learning. Research has shown that social collaboration can boost student achievement, provided that the kinds of interactions that are encouraged contribute to learning. Finally, social activities are interesting in their own right and help to keep students involved in their academic work. Students work harder to improve the quality of their products (essays, projects, artwork, etc.) when they know that they will be shared with other students.
In the classroom
Teachers can do many things to encourage social participation in ways that facilitate learning:
· They can assign students to work in groups and assume the role of a coach/co-ordinator who provides guidance and support to the groups.
· They can create a classroom environment that includes group workspaces where resources are shared.
· Through modelling and coaching, they can teach students how to co-operate with each other.
· They can create circumstances for students to interact with each other, to express their opinions and to evaluate other students' arguments.
· An important aspect of social learning is to link the school to the community at large. In this way, students' opportunities for social participation are enlarged.
References: Brown et al., 1996; Collins, Brown & Newman, 1989; Rogoff, 1990; Vygotsky, 1978.