In the early ‘70s Piaget, the famous Swiss psychologist, responsible for a theory on cognitive development that has shaped education in the Western world, said:
Knowledge is a consequence of experience
As such, schools should be places that allow students to have experiences. The more varied the experience, the greater the level of knowledge the child will be able to develop. We are shaped by our experiences and they help form who we are and how we interact with others.
Recently, there has been a very public push within state sector schools to remove prizes and awards for students who do well. The justification is that students who didn’t get an award may not like how they feel when seeing someone else rewarded. Consequently, an opportunity and experience to learn and grow is truncated.
At Westminster, we strive to provide students with opportunities to learn and we will continue to do so. But, like so much in life, the experience through which learning can take place and knowledge built is different for every child.
For some, the big experience of a guest speaker may be the opportunity through which they gain more knowledge. For others, being on a team that has lost match after match is their learning experience. For many of our students, Westventure, Outdoor Ed, the Duke of Edinburgh's Award Program and Round Square, all provide a huge array of learning outcomes.
We also can’t lose sight of the small learning opportunities that take place every day: the learning on the way to School; learning about wearing a uniform with pride and being a part of something bigger; gaining knowledge and learning through failing a test or missing a part in an audition; being dropped from a team or missing out on a trip because the forms weren’t in on time. These disappointments are experiences through which knowledge is gained. We have to let our children face these to learn, grow and accumulate knowledge.
As parents, our temptation is to shelter our children from learning which disappoints. Getting small things wrong or missing out on things in an environment where everyone cares, accumulate to develop resilience and encourage growth. If we can take a step back, it allows the space for our children to build the emotional fortitude to embrace the challenges and successes of life beyond the School gates. Piaget is right - knowledge really is a consequence of experience, and we must be careful not to diminish learning opportunities that empower our children.