Real Learning is Not Just About Knowing the Facts

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If you are familiar with Mizzentop Day School, you know how we feel about standardized tests. Knowing a fact is not the same as learning. Children and adults alike must be able to appropriately apply what they know.

Imagine if a student knew the textbook definition of the word empathy, but did not understand what it meant in the context of their day-to-day life. That illustrates pretty well the difference between just memorizing and real learning.

Memorization Is Not Enough

We define memorization as: memorizing individual facts in isolation from related information or context. We think teacher Ben Orlin did a great job of explaining this in his article for The Atlantic. When students memorize that the sine of π/2 is one, they haven’t actually learned anything. They don’t know how to find the answer on their own. They don’t know what a sine is, and they don’t know how or when it may be applied outside of the classroom.

We think that gets at the crux of the problem with rote memorization or teaching to a test. And, we can’t help but ask if that’s the case, what good is memorizing the sine of π/2 in the first place?

Social and Emotional Learning

You may have heard of SEL or Social and Emotional Learning. We emulate this model. This article illustrates what that means for you and your child when you become part of the Mizzentop family.

We’re proud to provide parents and students in Pawling with an alternative to standardized tests and rote memorization as a teaching strategy. Our values-based educational approach is integrated into everything we do, so you can be sure that your child will learn, grow, and develop the skills they need to go on to a successful academic career, and a happy and full life.

We’re not saying that our school, or any school for that matter, can be the sole source of a child’s social and emotional learning. What we are saying, with 100 percent confidence, is that a child’s school must be one of the strong, consistent forces for social and emotional learning in their lives.

What is SEL?

It is simply an approach to learning which helps students integrate the skills, attitudes and behaviors they need in order to to apply what they learn.

Researchers and academics worldwide have developed numerous frameworks for applying SEL. Our values-based approach to learning provides a solid SEL foundation.

Core Educational Components

Generally, these core components of SEL are included in every effective framework. And they are definitely part of everything we do here, including education in the arts, social studies, science, technology, and math.

The Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning, and Edutopia, both endorse these as the core components of SEL:

Self Awareness

By developing a strong sense of self, children learn to recognize and understand their emotions and values. They can eventually assess their own strengths and weaknesses and use those assessments to strengthen their sense of wellbeing and confidence.  

Self Management

In order to be successful academically and socially, children must learn to regulate their emotions, control their impulses, and develop self-discipline. Self management skills enable children to learn, early on, how to maintain emotional balance, and motivate themselves to reach their goals.

Social Awareness

Students with good social awareness skills are able to recognize someone else’s perspective, or put themselves in someone else’s shoes. They understand social norms, appreciate diversity, and are respectful of one another.

Relationship Skills

It isn’t enough to just be socially aware. Students must also learn the communication, relationship-building, listening and teamwork skills to apply what they know to establish rewarding relationships.

Responsible Decision Making

The ability to make constructive personal choices, whether in an academic, social or family setting, is a critical life skill. The academic environment your child spends their time in needs to reinforce their ability to evaluate, reflect on, understand the consequences of and ethically choose their behaviors.

We strive for all of this and more for our students from our wonderful Pawling community. Give us a call and come for a visit some time if you would like to learn more. We’d love to see you.