An educator proposes a research-based teaching method that incorporates broad aspects of the human mind and personal development.
In this second edition of his debut book, Watagodakumbura makes a case for what he calls “authentic” education, a holistic practice that maximizes learning by being more responsive to students’ needs and concentrates on deep lessons rather than rote memorization. The work guides readers through research on brain development, learning styles, and the creation of knowledge (Daniel Goleman, Jon Kabat-Zinn, Daniel Siegel, and Rick Hanson make appearances in the text, as do frequent mentions of Bloom’s taxonomy and Maslow’s hierarchy), delivering a greater understanding of what it means to be educated. The author establishes the many ways in which contemporary educational environments do not meet student needs and keep pupils from reaching their maximum potentials, and he shows how many aspects of modern life could be improved by a wider approach to the learning process. He then provides readers with examples of how authentic techniques can be used in the classroom while acknowledging the difficulty of implementing these strategies within the current education milieus. The book is aimed at students of pedagogy and classroom teachers who deal with the practical applications of education research, and it stays focused on its specialist audience throughout the text. Watagodakumbura is passionate about the potential benefits of authentic education. The work serves as a generally compelling argument for revisiting the traditional approach to teaching and learning, acknowledging that it represents a substantial change from the status quo: “Authentic education per se is a catalyst for a holistic transformation our societies need in the educational forefront, not a patch to be applied, to be swayed in the presence of economic or market changes with a narrow perspective or to suppress one problem until we encounter another, much bigger one.” The arguments are based on solid and substantial research, with full citations. While the volume skillfully addresses the conceptual aspects of the education system’s shortcomings, it is particularly effective in identifying concrete, accepted practices that limit students’ potential development, such as the use of multiple-choice questions and the imposition of artificial time limits. The book also does an excellent job of explaining why adapting to the neurodiversity and varied needs of the student population is a benefit both to individual pupils (who are not marginalized by rigid definitions of learning and achievement) and society (which gains the talents of more productive folks while isolating fewer who do not conform). The author presents a strong case for the dramatic changes he advocates and the benefits of “an integrated human development-focused sustainable system.” The prose is occasionally awkward (“Many students, especially in teenage and early adulthood, may feel the learning environment in a more neutral manner”; “Under prevailed social contexts”). But there are also plenty of vivid metaphors and imagery that will draw readers’ attention and make the complex topic manageable.
An ambitious and well-argued approach to redesigning the educational environment to better respond to student needs.