Ignite a Culture of Learning: It's Not What We Learn, But How We Learn

21st century skills emotional intelligence project-based learning May 01, 2024
21st-century learning

by Dr. Sonia Toledo


In the traditional classroom model, the focus has often been on imparting knowledge and building skills. However, as we navigate the ever-evolving landscape of education, it's becoming increasingly clear that simply learning content isn't enough. What truly matters is how we learn and the connection we forge between what we learn and our lives and future aspirations.



Consider this: when the content we're learning feels disconnected from our personal experiences and aspirations, our motivation to learn dwindles. This disconnect raises questions about the purpose of learning and leaves many young learners grappling with the relevance of their educational journey.

So, let's shift our perspective. Instead of solely focusing on what we learn, let's explore how we learn as a key driver of engagement and motivation. Creating an environment that stimulates curiosity and engages learners' interests and passions is essential for igniting a culture of learning.



Imagine an environment where learning is not confined to the four walls of a classroom but extends into the realm of real-world experiences and exploration. By involving children and youth in understanding the world around them and exploring issues and topics that matter to them, we lay the foundation for meaningful learning experiences.




Through self-directed learning, learners are empowered to pursue their interests and curiosities, driving their desire to learn and delve deeper into topics that matters to them. This approach encourages critical thinking, problem-solving, and a sense of ownership over one's learning journey.

But creating a culture of learning goes beyond providing access to information and resources. It requires fostering an emotionally safe environment where learners feel valued, supported, and free to express themselves. As educators, our role shifts from being mere instructors to coaches and facilitators, guiding learners on their journey of discovery and growth.

Critical to this process is recognizing and nurturing the diverse strengths and intelligences of each learner. Whether artistic, logical, or linguistic, every individual brings unique talents and perspectives to the table. By leveraging these strengths, we create opportunities for self-expression and deeper engagement with learning.



Moreover, we must equip learners with the skills to navigate the vast sea of information available at their fingertips. Access to data analysis tools and resources for deeper learning empowers learners to become informed, discerning individuals capable of making meaningful contributions to their communities and beyond.

At the heart of it all lies self-awareness—a deep understanding of oneself as a learner and a willingness to take ownership of one's learning journey. When learners are empowered to set goals, pursue their passions, and reflect on their progress, they become active participants in their own education.

In essence, it's not just about what we learn, but how we learn that shapes our educational experience. By prioritizing the development of critical thinking skills, self-directed learning, and emotional intelligence, we lay the groundwork for a culture of learning that transcends the confines of traditional classrooms.

So, let's reimagine education as a journey of exploration and discovery—a journey where curiosity is celebrated, connections are made, and every learner is empowered to reach their full potential. Together, let's ignite a culture of learning that inspires, motivates, and empowers generations to come.


SONIA M. TOLEDO, PhD, founded Dignity of Children® in 2008 to develop children and youth holistically and reduce education inequality. She has a PhD in education and 25-plus years of experience building quality after-school programs. She focuses on emotional intelligence training, youth development, and organizational culture change. Dignity of Children® serves after-school programs nationally, providing exceptional child and youth development training programs.

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