Forecasts about the growing importance of learning to learn in future education are based on two of the most important characteristics of modern society: (1) the significant speed that the production of knowledge has acquired and ( 2) the possibility of accessing a huge volume of information. Unlike in the past, the knowledge and information acquired in the initial training period in schools or universities will not allow people to perform for a long period of their active life. Obsolescence will be faster and faster, forcing permanent professional reconversion processes throughout life. But in addition to the significant speed in the production of knowledge, there is also now the possibility of accessing an enormous amount of information and data that forces us to select, organize, and process the information, so that we can use it.
If the goal of education is to pass on this higher-order knowledge, the role of teachers cannot remain the same as in the past. Its function is summarized, from this point of view, in the task of teaching the trade of learning, which is in opposition to the current functioning model of the relationship between teacher and student, where the student does not learn the cognitive operations destined to produce more knowledge but the operations that allow to succeed in the school process. In the current model, the student profession is based on a very high dose of instrumentalism, aimed at obtaining the best possible results according to the evaluation criteria, often implicit, of the teachers.
What is the trade of learning? In this regard, it is interesting to note that the authors who are working on this concept evoke the metaphor of the traditional learning of the trades, based on the relationship between the expert and the novice. But unlike the traditional trades, what distinguishes the expert from the novice in the process of learning to learn is the way they find, retain, understand and operate on knowledge, in the process of solving a certain problem.
The concept of “cognitive companion” allows to appreciate the changes in the role of the teacher or the teacher as a model. In the classic scheme of analysis of the teaching profession, the “ideal” profile of the teacher was defined based on personality traits outside the daily practice of teaching. In this new approach, instead, the teacher can play the role of model from the point of view of the learning process itself.
This dimension of the problem of secondary school teachers is one of the key issues in the current crisis at this level. To the extent that coverage has become universal and that an important part of classical secondary education becomes part of compulsory education, the traditional model of the teacher by discipline that goes from one establishment to another, without taking into account individual characteristics of their students or the institutional profile of the establishment, assumes characteristics significantly dysfunctional with the objectives pursued.
However, since the task of teaching is not limited to transmitting knowledge and information of a discipline – history, for example – but rather the operations that define the historian’s work, the dichotomy between teaching and scientific work tends to reduce. This approach obviously implies a much greater effort in the learning process, both on the part of the teacher and the students and opens up a very important series of problems for the initial training of teachers, their pedagogical work modalities, their teaching criteria. assessment and teaching materials.
Learning to learn also modifies the institutional structure of educational systems. From the moment in which we stop conceiving education as a stage of life and accept that we must learn throughout our entire life cycle, the structure of educational systems is subject to new demands. Permanent education, the close articulation between education and work, the mechanisms of accreditation of knowledge for permanent conversion, etc. these are some of the new problems and challenges that education must face in institutional terms.