I think we can all agree that the Arab pedagogical mode, with its absolute respect and reverence for the Teacher, is damaging to our children. It is a system that snuffs out creativity and imagination.
My experience in an architectural studio was profoundly enlightening and it was very much the way it’s described in the video. The first few critiques were uncomfortable and we were all very defensive and took every word personally.
After a few weeks it became clear that there really was nothing to fear. We learned to stop being so protective of our ideas and allow other people to tinker with them and show us things we couldn’t see from our own perspective. We began to not so much ‘teach’ each other but rather challenge each other to think differently.
This is different from the notion of critical thinking. It’s not so much the Socratic method, with it’s dialectical form of inquiry, but rather a framework that allows kids to experiment and to have the freedom to be bold. Peer-based learning is a way to foster the desire to be creative. Think of it like networked brainstorming, with kids gaining confidence from each other, engaging each other and learning from each other. The teacher becomes the coordinator or the orchestrator, guiding the team and providing the anchor to validate ideas and assumptions.
How can we incorporate the peer-based learning that architecture students experience into the broader educational environment? There are schools in the United States, such as the Seattle Girls School, that have been extremely successful by doing something very similar. They teach through long, project-based exercises where the girls are encouraged to experiment with ideas and allowed learn from failed attempts. Graduates from the SGS are sought out at colleges and are given preferential admission because they know how to imagine, create and ask good questions. All good schools have to teach kids how to create. Very few schools do, and none of them are in Kuwait.
Sadly, Kuwaiti youth now define themselves by their material possessions. ‘I am what I wear and what I drive’. What if every Kuwaiti identifies themselves not by their outward image but by the ideas they generate from within?
Edit: I have to admit that for a few years now there has been a successful local experiment in collaborative and peer-based learning. It’s an annual inter-school competition in Kuwait called ‘Battle of the Best’ where high school students are encouraged to create profit making projects. It’s a very capitalist oriented way of teaching creative thinking, but it’s a start. The project is part of Injaz Kuwait.
My hope is that the schools that participate will understand the value of peer-based learning and witness the progress made by the students that competed in ‘Battle of the Best’. This can’t simply be a voluntary extra-curricular activity. It has to be the basis and framework of all teaching starting from the earliest levels. Recitation for tests and regurgitation of facts has failed us. There is a better way.