robertogreco + freeplay   4

Learning Despite School — LifeLearn — Medium
"While organised education and deliberate, goal-oriented practice has its place, and is indeed critical, it needs to be balanced with the development of social competence and intrinsic motivation. The vast majority of learning happens in informal social situations within communities of like minded people, where individuals take initiative and learn to work with other people in meaningful settings. Schools may hinder this important avenue of growth and increase stress and anxiety.

“Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.” ~ Lao Tzu.

The role of informal learning

The importance of informal learning in all areas of life cannot be overstated. For anyone observing people going about their life, it is obvious that every waking moment (and indeed, also sleeping moments) presents experiences which shape our brains, and thus, learning happens. Historically, informal learning has been off the spotlights since it is more difficult to study than organised forms of education. However, during the 21st century, surveys have shown that the majority of learning happens in informal settings[1], and even governmental policies have changed to encourage informal learning[4].

Learning within workplaces can be divided into non-formal and informal learning. If these terms are unfamiliar, here are short definitions:

• Formal education is highly institutionalised, bureaucratic, curriculum driven, and formally recognised with grades, diplomas, or certificates.[1]

• Non-formal learning is organised learning outside of the formal education system.[1]

• Informal learning occurs in community, where individuals have opportunities to observe and participate in social activities.[2]

The clear majority of learning within workplaces is informal[3], even though companies spend huge resources on non-formal training of their employees.

Likewise it can be argued that a large portion of learning that happens in schools stems from informal activities, such as social interactions during recess. The magnitude of this informal learning clearly depends on how strictly pupils and their time use are controlled by the faculty. Most resources in educational systems are spent in the advancement of formal education.

How Finnish schools enable informal learning

Finnish primary schools consistently rank high in various international studies, and produce excellent educational outcomes. While there are several reasons behind the success of Finnish schools, one of their typical features is the large amount of free time pupils are given.

• For every 45 minutes of class time, 15 minutes of recess are provided. Recess is free undirected time, usually spent outdoors.

• 30–45 minutes are reserved each day for lunch, provided by the school.

• Children enter school the year they turn 7, giving them more years of free childhood than in most other educational systems.

• School days are short, starting with 4–5 hours in the lower grades, and growing to 6–8 in higher grades.

• The amount of homework is light, usually between 0–4 hours per week.

• Classroom time often includes group work, project work, and personalised learning activities.

All this generates lots of time in children’s lives where they can independently (or with partial guidance) decide what to do, explore their surroundings, and experience new things. All of this is informal learning and it can cultivate skills such as independence, critical thinking, accountability, social competence, self-efficacy, metacognition, time management, planning, and emotional intelligence.

Balancing academic, social and physical development

Finnish studies on pupils’ hobbies and free time use show that the constructive and positive spirit in classrooms increases as pupils spend more of their free time with each other; as their classmates become closer friends, motivation to attend classes increases; and continuing into higher education is more likely. Results also highlight the importance of non-programmed time, where teens are not supposed to do anything or achieve something. Exploration and experimentation are important. Creative crossing of boundaries of accepted behaviour is also important for the teens’ ethical development.[5] Social competence even as early as age 5 has been shown to be connected with adult life quality and productivity[8].

The effects of physical exercise to cognitive capacity and ability to focus are clear and are changing even workplace practices (e.g. walking meetings). Studies of Finnish students have shown that physical exercise has a positive effect on learning and cognitive functions, such as memory and executive functions, and can possibly affect academic achievement[6].

On the other hand, it is clear that to develop top talent in any field (including sports), young people need a balance of training, competition, and free play and exploration. Focusing too early on serious practice activities that are not enjoyable will damage intrinsic motivation[7].

In countries where schools control their pupils more strictly, opportunities for informal learning are diminished. Children then tend to focus their interests and motivation on their hobbies that happen after school. In some countries, children spend nearly all their waking hours on formal learning tasks, which may produce good academic outcomes, but limits severely the benefits that informal learning could provide. Finnish schools show that an approach that emphasises children’s natural tendencies for exploration and learning, can also provide excellent academic results.


A clear majority of learning for any individual happens in informal settings. While formal education and on-the-job training play a role, they will be more effective if they can acknowledge and accommodate informal learning that individuals will engage in regardless. In practice this means at least giving time for non-directed social activities, reflection, and physical activities. In addition, utilising learners’ own life interests in making formal training more engaging and relevant will increase learning outcomes significantly. Combining formal and informal is at the core of learner-centric approaches."
education  unschooling  deschooling  learning  informal  informallearning  schools  social  training  finland  play  competition  freeplay  howwlearn  howweteach  teaching  hobbies  constructivism  experimentation  2016  schedules  time  independence  timemanagement  planning  criticalthinking  accountability  metacognition  laotzu  tarmotoikkanen  competence  motivation  stress  anxiety 
july 2016 by robertogreco
Dear America: If you love kids, let your schools show your affection. - Taught by Finland
"I told them about how Finnish first and second graders have about four hours of school every day, which is more like a half-day back in the United States. Not only that, but kids in Finland have a 15-minute break built into every hour of instruction (more on that later); this means that a 4-hour school day involves just three hours of classroom time for first and second graders! This is incredible news to American parents and teachers, but it’s even more amazing to Italians. I spoke with one parent who told me that her daughter, a student at a public elementary school in Bologna, does 8-hour school days (8:00 am to 4:00 pm) with barely any time for recess. Oh. My. And I used to think that a typical schedule at an American elementary school was too much for kids!

The Finnish approach of providing less academic instruction to young kids is sensible. As students in Finland grow older, they generally spend more hours at school. For example, my sixth graders are in school about six hours every day compared with the four they used to have as first and second graders. 7- and 8-year-olds thrive on shorter school days because they need lots of time for free play. Sixth graders, not as much.

When you are in school for eight hours (or even six), there is little time and energy to play afterwards. School this long can easily kill creativity, not necessarily by what happens during lessons, but by the space it takes up in the lives of young children. Research has shown that kids only start to enter a deeper level of play—where creativity and problem-solving skills develop—after 30 minutes of uninterrupted free time. If you’re a young American and Italian student, these long stretches of free play are non-existent in schools, so the only hope is that you’d have time after the school day. But that’s unlikely to happen when you’re flat-out exhausted, your homework is burning a hole in your backpack and your bedtime is just a couple of hours from when you return home.

Finns—who are typically reserved—may not be pinching and coddling babies on the street, but they’re making sure that their children are getting what they need at school. Sometimes this looks like keeping the school day short for young kids. Of course, my argument hinges on the assumption that 7- and 8-year-old Finns are spending their after school hours engaged in free play, not structured tasks like private tutoring and organized sports (as is common practice in the United States).

In January of this year, I wanted to see how most of the first and second graders at my school were using their free time after school. I wanted to be sure that I wasn’t just thinking wishfully that Finnish kids were playing deeply after their last class. I wasn’t disappointed. For three hours, I attended their iltapäivä kerho (“afternoon club”)—a subsidized public program that enrolls 70% of the first and second graders at my school—that was exclusively play-oriented. The adult supervisors told me that they don’t even encourage the kids to complete their meager amounts of homework before they head home at 4:00 pm because they believe young children just need time to play with their friends. And that’s exactly what I saw these 7- and 8-year-olds doing: playing dress-up, building with legos and drawing.

As I mentioned earlier, Finnish kids are entitled to take a 15-minute break for every 45 minutes of instruction. Finland takes this so seriously that it’s even guaranteed by law. While I was visiting Rome, I was told that typically Italian high school students get just 10-minutes of break every day (and they’re expected to eat during this time)! On top of this, they will spend most of the school day in just one classroom; teachers come to them. Meanwhile, kids in Finland—young and old—receive 15-minute unstructured breaks throughout the school day and they have the opportunity to slip outside for fresh air during these times, even when it’s freezing.

Obviously, these 15-minute breaks are not long enough to provide young students with time for deep play, but they’re just long enough to refocus children. So, first and second graders in Finland are putting in three hours of high-quality classroom work every morning—because they’re paced by frequent breaks—and in the afternoon, they’re playing deeply throughout the entire afternoon. That’s a pretty sweet deal for kids.

But the case of Italy still befuddles me. They clearly love children but their schools—with their long and nearly recess-less school days—do not show evidence of their affection. I feel the same way about many American public elementary schools. We say we love children (and I know, deep down, we do) and yet, we send our kids to kindergarten at the age of five and they receive full-day academic instruction. We give young children just 20-minutes or so of recess for an entire school day. We throw dozens of standardized tests at our kids, starting in third grade or even younger, narrowing their curriculum and stressing them out, along with their teachers. We require young American kids to attend school each day for nearly twice as long as young Finnish children, leaving them with little time and energy for play after school.

By providing things like frequent breaks, shorter school days and less standardized tests, Finnish schools are not doing anything particularly innovative. This tiny Nordic country is simply making sensible decisions that support the wellbeing of all children. And when you stop to think about it, this is exactly what all school systems should be doing."
finland  education  schedules  scheduling  classtime  recess  2014  timwalker  lcproject  openstudioproject  play  freeplay  unschooling  deschooling  policy  us  italy  schools  teaching  learning  howwelearn  unstructuredtime  openstudio 
september 2014 by robertogreco
The Serious Need for Play: Scientific American
"Free, imaginative play is crucial for normal social, emotional and cognitive development. It makes us better adjusted, smarter and less stressed # Childhood play is crucial for social, emotional and cognitive ­development.

# Imaginative and rambunctious “free play,” as opposed to games or structured activities, is the most essential type.

# Kids and animals that do not play when they are young may grow into anxious, socially maladjusted adults."
playgrounds  education  children  science  psychology  play  cognitive  cognition  childhood  development  freeplay  creativity  games  tcsnmy 
october 2009 by robertogreco
The Serious Need for Play: Scientific American
"children’s free-play time dropped by a quarter between 1981 and 1997. Concerned about getting their kids into the right colleges, parents are sacrificing playtime for more structured activities. ... a play-deprived childhood disrupts normal social, emotional and cognitive development in humans and animals. ... play also promotes the continued mental and physical well-being of adults. ... Pellegrini explains, “games have a priori rules—set up in advance and followed. Play, on the other hand, does not have a priori rules, so it affords more creative responses.” ... This creative aspect is key because it challenges the developing brain more than following predetermined rules does. In free play, kids use their imagination and try out new activities and roles"
tcsnmy  children  parenting  play  unstructuredtime  games  psychology  health  imagination  creativity  sociality  nature  research  gaming  science  cognition  unschooling  homeschool  structure  via:preoccupations  anxiety  fear  rules  society  helicopterparents  freeplay  development  relationships  education  learning  culture  mind  earlychildhood  evolution  helicopterparenting 
january 2009 by robertogreco

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