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Grades are like fast food

Grades are like fast food. Learning is like nutritious food. It is not always tasty but it makes us better. Unfortunately, many children are currently busy gobbling fast food at McDonald's. They are taking the easy route: memorising definitions for exams.

Another analogy for what is learning vs what is not learning:

Learning is a journey of ups and downs

Learning does not just 'occur' to us. It requires effort and time. It involves scratching of head and hours at the study table.

How can schools and parents help children learn the way learning should be?

Include an element of thinking in your teaching. Whether you are teaching using a story, an example or an activity, ask questions in between each teaching tool. Each time you ask a question, you are not only making children struggle, you are making children a slightly better thinker.

Watch children make effort and arrive at the answer on their own.

What does the research say?

Research shows that new neural pathways are formed when we learn by thinking. The blood flow increases into some parts of the brain and new areas of the brain get activated.

In a study that was conducted on London’s taxi drivers, it was found that the drivers have a much larger hippocampus – the part of the brain that plays a critical role in learning and memory – than bus drivers. Why? Because the taxi drivers drove through a new path every day. They were forced to think and remember new routes. On the other hand, the bus drivers drove through the same route every day and were not pushed to think.

Learning is much the same. Our brain grows when we are stretched to think. And, what better way to make children think than to challenge them and ask them questions?

The good news is that we don’t even need to ask children to solve difficult puzzles in schools to make them think. Every subject that we teach in school – Science, Math, Geography, etc. – is filled with infinite opportunities to ask questions.

What does Open Door do?

Someone needed to step up and do the right thing. At Open Door, we asked ourselves: should we open another McDonald’s or provide children food with nutritious food?

Open Door decided to offer the following programs:

  1. Thinking Assessments and Thinking Classroom to schools
  2. Unbox and Thinksheets to individual parents

Open Door vs most other teaching methods

1.    Driven by questions, not lectures: When teachers teach, they tend to speak a lot. They tend to give away the answers. Children end up merely look at a teacher speaking at them and feeling that they are learning. Open Door makes good questions a part of teaching.

2.    Giving children time to think: Research shows that children rarely get even 1.5 seconds to think after a question is asked. In each of Open Door's program, children receive plenty of time to think. In fact, in Thinking Assessments, there is no time limit to any assessment.

Fast food or nutritious food

We had the option of teaching children very well and making the subject really ‘easy’ for them. We could have made teaching tools in which teaching happens in an interesting manner or by showing fascinating graphics. Children (and even teachers and parents) would have enjoyed that teaching. But, it would have only created a delusion of learning.

We know that learning happens when you think on your own.That is why, we chose a path that will make you put some effort but it will make you stronger in the process.

So, while Open Door's questions make children uncomfortable for a few seconds, every question teaches them something new and makes them smarter in the process. 

The choice is yours: Fast food or nutritious food?


Aneesh Bangia

Aneesh Bangia is the co-founder of Open Door. He writes about the past, present and future of education.

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