It would be impossible to come up with a general list for all students. It is based on them, their interest/passion, and their choices. They will learn many different things, often without even realizing it. They can learn about specific fields of knowledge or about life in general, for example communication skills, respect for human rights and the opinions of others, they would practice empathy, conflict resolution and experience their own agency and ability to affect the world around them thanks to the School Meeting/JC process.
Students learn at their own pace the kinds of things that they want to learn. Now that the internet is so all-encompassing all children have access to the knowledge of the world at their fingertips.
In terms of a more concrete example, let us look at the fictional example of Sandra (9) who wants to learn about planes. In terms of traditional school there are three main components of education:
the curriculum (what is taught)
pedagogy (how it is taught)
assessment (how what was learnt is evaluated)
In a traditional context, the curriculum has already been decided upon in a traditional context and so there is very limited opportunity for most children to spend significant amounts of time on what they decide, on their own interests. Planes might be mentioned at some point on the curriculum but it certainly would not be allotted weeks or even days to explore this one topic in depth. In addition, not every child will be interested in planes and so the teacher will need to move on to the next topic on the curriculum. The pedagogy is decided by the teacher - will they bring in a model aeroplanes, will they sing a song about aeroplanes, will they focus on the maths of aeroplanes or the narrative possibilities of the subject. Finally, how much the children learned will also be assessed. Usually this relates to the subject matter itself and does not include reflections on any other skills which might have been practiced during the process.
In a Sudbury context it is quite a different story and there are infinitely more possibilities in terms of what is learning. In the case of Sandra, she became interested in planes because she saw one in the sky one day. She wondered how it stayed up and didn't fall. She spends a few hours learning about how planes stay up. Not too long so that she gets bored and not too little, just the right amount of time that allows her to enjoy learning about planes. Sandra decided that how she would learn about planes is by asking some older students and staff and by watching. She has some conversations and then searches for some youtube videos.
Sandra received some good recommendations from her peers and so she found one particular youtube channel which was just the right balance of being both entertaining and informative. She then decides she wants to make a paper airplane as it was mentioned in one of the videos. She gets some paper and begins to make airplanes. She is very particular about making the exact right type of airplane. Sandra engages in a quite rigorous assessment of her work as she is really invested in it. She gets a little frustrated and is not happy with her attempts and so she calls on a staff member to help her. With the help of the staff members she succeeds in creating an airplane which meets her high standards.
While this is a fictional account, we hope that it is helpful. As students are responsible for their own learning they are not hampered by someone else's interpretation of how that student would learn best. This means that they can achieve a state that psychologists term "flow
". Flow is the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. In essence, flow is characterized by complete absorption in what one does.
The concept was first researched and named by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi. Flow is one of the best mental states for growth and development. When one is in a flow state, he or she is working to master the activity at hand. To maintain that flow state, one must seek increasingly greater challenges. Attempting these new, difficult challenges stretches one's skills. One emerges from such a flow experience with personal growth and great "feelings of competence and efficacy". By increasing time spent in flow, intrinsic motivation and self-directed learning also increases.
Video 1: Flow, the secret of happiness - Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi