Fundació Jaume BofillUniversitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC)


We are celebrating the 10-year anniversary of Debats d’Educació by giving the educational community the opportunity to air its views

Neus Sanmarti
Neus Sanmarti
Professor Emeritus at the Autonomous University of Barcelona

I am a professor with a PhD in chemistry and am a science teaching specialist. I specialised in research on formative assessment, language learning related to science and environmental education, as well as the training of science teachers.

The three things I’ve learned

Over and above being able to reproduce isolated ideas, we need to add networks of interrelated ideas

Without knowledge we cannot be competent

Sometimes competencies are viewed as if they were skills and strategies (a savoir-faire) that are distinct from the cultural knowledge accumulated by humanity over the course of centuries. Furthermore, an “active” or “non-traditional” form of teaching often resembles one that does not attach importance to learning this knowledge. But as Philippe Perrenoud rightly insists, to be competent in today’s world, you must have the capacity to activate and use what we call “knowledge”. However, the question is what knowledge? Over the last few years, we have learned that over and above being able to reproduce many isolated ideas, we need to add networks of interrelated ideas to our memory  – ideas of a very general nature, but which explain many things and enable us to act more effectively in a world in constant evolution. We need to be able to “observe” these networks of ideas creatively and from a variety of perspectives, while using them to create new narratives, to work and play with others empathetically, to act with initiative, and to understand ourselves and our environment. In the words of Jacques Delors, education must provide maps of a complex world in constant turmoil and the compass that will enable people to find their way in it.


Pupils need to be taught to find pleasure in knowledge

Since we hear so much about the culture of effort, it is also necessary to defend the culture of pleasure. It is true that in order to feel pleasure, you have to make an effort, but this does not contradict the daily need to find pleasure in knowledge, the pleasure that comes from realising that it can help us to explain many other things besides the things teachers ask us about at school, to take decisions when we have doubts, and to enjoy ourselves and increase our self-esteem. When a boy or girl discovers this pleasure, effort follows behind it. But it is also true that in order to experience this pleasure, the learner must be accompanied by the whole “tribe”, especially at the beginning, when the road is tough, when obstacles have to be overcome and it is easy to fall. The process of discovering this pleasure is not a linear one; little experiences are gradually accumulated and then one day, when you are not expecting it, something goes “click” and you will never stop appreciating knowledge. Why should school and families forego this ingredient that is key to learning and the meaning of life? It is not for nothing that one of the experts who was asked by the OECD to define the key competencies enumerated them on the basis of what he thought we need in order to be happy.


To be autonomous we must be capable of self-evaluation

I can still recall the impact that the words of Georgette Nunziati written in 1990 had on me, when he said that the essential purpose of all educational processes is to help boys and girls to become truly autonomous learners, who are capable of recognizing their mistakes and of finding ways to correct them. Some years later, when the capacity for autonomous action became one of the 3 key competencies within the framework of the EU, self-evaluation was assigned an essential function. Behind the idea of self-evaluation there is a new perspective on what is understood by evaluation and, above all, on its purpose. We should stop seeing evaluation as simply the activity that reports on the level of learning attained, and begin to regard it as the process that opens the door to self-knowledge, that enables us to know what we know, to explain how we learned it and to choose the path for continued learning. We are not talking about a superficial change, nor a capacity that is easily developed, but if I had to prioritize one of a range of capacities that are usually cited, I have no doubt that this would be the one I would choose, because it is through this capacity that we can continue learning at all times and in any situation.

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