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Saturday, May 29, 2010

Biologically, the necessary order of learning is: explore, then play, then add rigor


Look at the process by which children learn to swim. Children move effortlessly from exploration and free roam to structured but simple games to taking on rigorous challenges. Here are three thoughts.

First, imagine how stunted and crippled and punitive the learning process would be without the exploration and play phases.

Second, imagine how the first two phases would be implemented in a traditional state-run industrial school - with tests and metrics and "teacher and student accountability."

Third, and most importantly, from math to biology to business to engineering, and for all ages, the greatest challenge for all instructors and coaches is to create situations and learning environments that allow for not one or two, but all three phases to happen.


  1. This puts into words just what I have found with my own child - if she is allowed to learn in her own way. (We don't use schools) She learns very quickly in the way you describe, but more slowly if the 'rigour' part is introduced at the start of the process. Very interesting blog, btw. Thanks for your insights.

  2. Thank you. Like so many things, if we didn't have schools, this model would just be common sense. But because we do have them, this model seems impractical.