top of page
Search

What is freedom in learning and why is it crucial?

Updated: Jun 11, 2023

Freedom has never been more at the center of the discussion than it is today, and still when it comes to the field of education, freedom is still a theoretical concept.

Should freedom be part of learning? Should learning be free-spirited? What are the components of such a pedagogical transformation? Is now the time to practice freedom in learning or maybe we should let Chat GPT decide that for us? These are the questions I'd like to explore with you today.

In a hyper-personalized world, this generic learning looks like a painting on a cave wall.

Choice-based Learning

The term "educational path" implies a predetermined framework that we or our children must follow, limiting our choices and potential for self-discovery. However, in 2023, we often consider the world as a place of endless possibilities, where individuals can pursue unique paths that align with their unique characteristics and aspirations. Unfortunately, the world of education has been slow to adapt to this pluralistic mindset. With physical classrooms and limited class sizes, there is little room for individualization. At best, students may be grouped by level or given the option to pursue a personal project within a broader theme. Nonetheless, the overall format, process, and outcomes tend to be quite uniform.

Let's take a moment to consider the world our children inhabit. The world we created for them is a world of boundless possibilities and endless choices: what to listen to, what to watch, what games to play, how to customize their avatars, and so on. Each child faces unique questions and provides individualized answers that reflect their preferences and identities. They expect this diversity and inclusion to be reflected in their education, but instead, they encounter a rigid, uniform system that seems disconnected from the world around them. In a hyper-personalized world where algorithms can curate content tailored to each person's needs and interests, this generic learning looks like a painting on a cave wall.

The biggest setback in learning

Let’s say we have a system that offers diverse options such as level groupings, personal projects, a range of instructors, and various learning formats. Would such a system constitute true freedom in learning?

Consider a 14-year-old student who works hard and struggles to succeed in a math test, yet ends up failing it, while another 14-year-old student invests zero effort and gets straight A's in all classes.

Consider a 14-year-old student who works hard and struggles to succeed in a math test, yet ends up failing it, while another 14-year-old student invests zero effort and gets straight A's in all classes.

I believe the biggest setback in learning is the grading system. Not only it restricts educators to outdated doctrines, but also it results in significant pedagogical and mental harm to students. A grading system that rewards high achievers for their accomplishments but ignores lack of effort and dismisses educational challenges - will fail to create satisfaction and engagement. At the same time, this system negatively affects those who strive but fail to meet the standards of stronger students, resulting in a straight F’s on their report card. This demoralizing feeling of failure will eliminate their future aspirations to make an effort.


The desire for measurement in the learning process obviously makes sense, as it is a tool for examining its effectiveness. However comparing students with different abilities is a dogma that is no longer relevant in the technological era. With the ability to tailor challenges to the user and measure specific performance, there is no need to create a common rating standard. While grades were previously used by academic institutions and future employers to assess a candidate's suitability for a course or position, the ease of measuring skills and the decreasing level of requirements in schools eliminates the need for such a standard. In any case, any future course or employer can easily build and administer the required entrance exams.


Freedom in the learning process

Since the pandemic, there has been a significant shift in the way people work. Working from home has become a popular trend that many employees prefer, even if it means taking a pay cut. Despite this, some workplaces still rely on measuring work based on clocking in and out, instead of focusing on goals or outputs. The same approach still prevails in the education system, even though it's clear that physical presence is not an indicator for involvement, effort or performance.


By granting freedom, commitment and involvement can grow, even without physical presence. This applies not only to the educational world but also to the professional world.

As we raise a generation that is digitally native, it's important to accept that we have altered their habitat. When they're with us in the living room, they may actually be on Instagram, and when they're in bed, they may be on TikTok. Even when they're at work, they may be shopping on Amazon, and during class, they may be playing chess on chess.com. In this digital environment, a new relationship based on trust and freedom must be established. By granting freedom, commitment and involvement can grow, even without physical presence. This applies not only to the educational world but also to the professional world.

The most important output of learning

So, if the topics are open and the formats are flexible, the grading is personalized, and the process is agile, what will be the result? How can we measure it? How can we evaluate it? How can we prepare for it?


Critical thinking and creativity have been on the top of the list of required skills in the workforce for many years, and recently, empathy has joined them, perhaps as a consequence of social distancing that began even before the pandemic. However, despite the clear importance of these skills, none of them are truly emphasized in the learning process or reflected in the outcomes, which still culminate after 12 years of study in the standard high school diploma.

In these uncertain times, as we navigate a new way of life, perhaps learning also needs to become less predetermined, less prescriptive, and less directed. Maybe it should be more like an endless brainstorm, allowing us to practice openness to diverse ideas, a willingness to identify with others, and the courage to try something new while giving up something old. With the concept of lifelong learning and the immense potential of ChatGPT, it's time to realize that the current role of learning is to enable us to expand our minds and remain curious, to ask questions and explore, to act and share. It's no longer just about finding the right answer and receiving a grade.


***

Yael Shafrir is the co-founder and CEO of ReShuffle.



26 views0 comments

Comments


bottom of page