Learning Begins with Language
Our emphasis at Innovators4education remains firmly focused on helping students develop and improve their language skills, regardless of whether the students we work with are native English speakers or English language learners, for language facility is the foundation for all forms of thinking, and is therefore the key to success in every person’s education. Noam Chomsky’s research in linguistics reveals that that our ability to use language separates human beings from the rest of the animal kingdom. Furthermore, language enables us to think, to reflect on and learn about the world we live in; actually, language’s capacity for generating ideas is its primary function, and is thus even more important than its role in enabling us to communicate with others, which is its secondary function.
The implications of this insight for education are crucial, for they compel us as educators to concentrate first and foremost on language skills as the principle medium for enhancing knowledge and understanding in all areas of learning, including math and science. A gifted student’s innate ability to employ numbers and perceive spatial relationships, such as those involved in physics, chemistry, computer technology, geometry, graphics, metrics, and statistics, can never in in itself prove sufficient for ensuring effective learning and successful education, because the underlying conceptual frameworks in all these domains can only be grasped and understood through the interpretation of words, both as individual signs and as interrelated symbolic formulations.
Effective teaching necessarily begins with establishing a comfortable interpersonal rapport between teacher and student through a process of stimulating conversation and inspiring interchange. First we need to connect with the sense of inborn curiosity within each learner in order to ascertain his or her unique interests and goals; then we can encourage him or her to begin exploring a wide range of spoken as well as written contexts as vehicles for knowledge and understanding. The broader the learner’s vocabulary range and the more highly developed his or her facility with linguistic structures and semantic relationships, the deeper the student’s comprehension will become.
At Innovators4education we spend time getting to know each student on a personal level in order to determine a teaching approach that is uniquely suited to his or her personal proclivities and requirements. We abjure pre-packaged, one-size-fits-all teaching methodologies, and instead concentrate on lively, engaging interaction that keeps the student’s enthusiasm for learning at an optimal level. Since curiosity about ourselves and the world is inborn within each one of us, the learning process can and should be an exciting, enjoyable one; this becomes possible, however, only when the student feels genuinely motivated to engage with learning in a way that connects with his or her personal interests and long-term goals. Education can and should become an intriguing adventure, a dynamic process of exploration and discovery. Our goal is to guide and support students in becoming independent thinkers as well as lifelong learners.
Too often, students perceive teachers to be dictating the terms of the learning process, asserting unequivocally not only what the student must learn but how he or she must learn it. The student feels reluctant to express an opinion or share a point of view in such a setting for fear that the teacher will disagree or disapprove. Students balk at the risk posed in daring to think for themselves and instead just plug information into prescribed slots in order to satisfy the teacher and obtain a decent grade. As a result, unfortunately, individual curiosity and the impulse for inquiry become sadly stifled.
Students become convinced that mastering the writing process, for example, requires conforming to a set pattern or paradigm that has been stipulated by the teacher. Students worry and stress over following a prescribed formula for writing an opening sentence or introductory paragraph, or composing an adequate thesis statement. Actually, students need to realize that there are innumerable interesting and effective strategies and approaches for writing a worthwhile, informative academic essay or research paper. Writing involves thinking on the page, one word, one sentence, one paragraph at a time. The overall format of the writing really comes second in priority to the critical thinking process itself, which must derive from within the individual student in order for lasting, independently engaged learning to occur.
This is why at Innovators4education we set our sights on the long-term goal of enhancing students’ competence and confidence so that they can develop into independent investigators and creative critical thinkers who are eager to ask questions, ready to challenge conventional assumptions, and willing to explore alternative perspectives. The approach to teaching that we advocate guarantees students’ active engagement with their own independent, lifelong learning process, which is the key to optimum personal, academic, as well as career satisfaction and success.