On “Learnability”

On “Learnability” post thumbnail image

I find words fascinating, especially new ones. When I was teaching high school English, one of my favorite classes was an elective titled “Language Development” where we looked at etymologies, made connections between words and cultural shifts, and created all sorts of new words on our own among other things. We even ended up creating our own “suburban” dictionary of slang at our school that ended up being a really hefty research project that my students actually loved.

Anyway, I came across the word “learnability” this morning, and while I’m sure I’d seen that word before, in this instance it had an interesting twist. Look up the word in the dictionary and it most definitions run along the lines of “the ease with which something can be learned.” So, for instance, the “learnability” of Spanish, let’s say, would be greater than that of Chinese. Software creators wonder about the “learnability” of their products. And so on.

But in this article on the coming “skills revolution,” “learnability” takes on a different definition. Here it’s “the desire and ability to learn new skills to stay relevant and remain employable.” In essence, it’s a human characteristic, not a measure of difficulty.

And I find that interesting. And relevant.

Do the kids in your schools leave you with “the desire and ability to learn new skills to stay relevant and remain employable?” Is that part of your mission as an educator, to nurture and develop that characteristic in your students?

And even more, what does learnability mean in the context of being an educator. Obviously, aside from some really bold schools where contracts are renewed every year, “remaining employable” in education doesn’t require too much effort. But what should we expect from teachers and leaders in terms of exhibiting “the desire and ability to learn new skills to stay relevant?”

I would suggest we should expect a lot.

You can judge for yourself whether the authors’ emphasis on “learnability” is as crucial as they claim, but I don’t doubt that learning new skills perpetually is going to be a reality for most students.

We getting them ready for that?

Image credit: José Martín

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