Productive Learning: The Road Less Traveled | Will Richardson | 3 Min Read

The overarching purpose of school ought to be that children should want to keep learning more about themselves, others, and the world around them.

That’s a paraphrase of the driving force behind the work of Seymour Sarason, an educator and writer who has had a huge influence on my thinking about schools and learning. For Sarason, “productive learning” was learning that engendered “wanting to learn more.” Anything that didn’t cause students to want to learn more was “unproductive.”

Want to argue with that?

When I bring up that idea in my coaching or workshop contexts, no one disagrees with that purpose. Schools should be laser-focused on helping kids learn. That is at the core of our work with children, especially now at a time when our kids will be required to know how to learn their way through the world in self-directed, self-determined ways. 

So, the question becomes, why aren’t we better at creating the conditions for “productive learning” to happen in school?

Some of that, as I have mentioned before in this space, is because most schools have very little coherence around how they define what learning is. Personally, if you don’t have a definition, just steal Sarason’s.…

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Will Richardson

A former public school educator of 22 years, Will Richardson has spent the past 15 years developing an international reputation as a leading thinker and writer about the intersection of social online learning networks, education, and systemic change. Most recently, Will is a co-founder of The Big Questions Institute which was created to help educators use “fearless inquiry” to make sense of this complex moment and an uncertain future. In 2017, Will was named one of 100 global “Changemakers in Education” by the Finnish site HundrED, and was named one of the Top 5 “Edupreneurs to Follow” by Forbes. He has given keynote speeches, lead breakout sessions, and provided coaching services in over 30 countries on 6 continents. He has also authored six books, and given TEDx Talks in New York, Melbourne, and Vancouver.