Updated: Mar 1
Recently, I have been talking to academics and going through material about education, and this topic appeared many times during our chats: "How do we learn?". If we are going to talk about teaching, we need to talk about learning as well. Don't you think?
So here are my thoughts about it and some of the questions that popped in my head while talking about "How do we learn?"
Academics are talking about this topic every day. How do we learn, how can students improve their way of learning, and how can teachers introduce topics in different ways to ensure students will get the most of their classes? Because at the end of the day teachers effective teaching method is measured by how well students perform. (This is another topic I will address in another post)
I have to say that as the years pass and the world changes, we as humans have changed the way we process information. That may be obvious. Technology has a significant saying on this and has made us change the way we gather information and the way our brains handle this information. Is the younger generation learning faster than we did 30 or 60 years ago? Or are they just learning differently? Does the learning environment determine how we can learn more effectively? Can we teach someone how to learn or is this down to each one of us and find what works best? How can we, as teachers help students understand what they need to learn?
Some of us might have heard our children saying they need to study for an exam and then listening and seeing them how they memorise concepts, formulas. They think they are learning and "studying" the best way. Are they? Is the learning process these days about memory capacity, or is it about deep insight, reflection and active learning?
My suggestion here would be then to try implementing Kolb's cycle of learning: do, review, learn and apply, but also to include a period of reflection where students can think back about what has worked so far and what hasn't. We need to allow ourselves and our students to do this whole cycle, to reflect on what worked and what didn't and make the necessary changes so that the learning process becomes more effective.
Some of you might say, things are going too fast, and we teachers need to cover so much material that we can not allow our students to go through the whole process of learning how to learn every time. That could be the case; although there are ways to guide students to do their reflection on their own time and ways to do it during the lessons, as well.
Here are 4 ways of promoting self-reflection for learning in the classroom
In a learning journal, students can write freely about how was the process of learning for them using Wh- questions. For example, What am I learning? Which resources did I use? How useful or not the resources were for the specific goal stated? Why were these resources helpful or not? Where can I find more and different resources? Who can I ask for guidance? When will I revise this goal again? Why was this an effective/natural/clear learning process for me? I think this way, the learning process in itself can be very transformational. But be aware that this might not apply to everyone, as not everyone will find the writing exercise helpful. Remember, learning journals can be beneficial for students as well as for teachers.
We need to see social media and the internet as an ally for learning as well. Why not giving students the chance to blog as it can be an excellent way to engage students in writing. They can use links, images, videos, and so much more. Always provide students with a safe space to blog and make sure you read it. (Check out how this university uses blogging as a resource for learning Vanderbilt University’s resource page.)
When teachers incorporate descriptive feedback instead of an X or tick, students can understand what they need to do differently to achieve the grade expected or reflect on what they need to improve when resubmitting a paper next time. My daughter's English teacher uses this practice, and it was suggested by her to include this way of self-reflection as she has found it very useful. I know, wow :)
Peer reflection time
This one would be one of my favourites as promotes interaction, discussions, suggestions, brainstorming among students. I genuinely love to see a classroom where all students are actively participating. Don't you? They can be so collaborative with each other. This peer reflection can be done as an open class discussion, in small groups or even in pairs.
When people reflect in detail on what they've learned, how, and the progress they've made, they can make more meaningful and useful adjustments. They can discover their best way of learning for themselves instead of us teachers telling them how to learn best. We need to trust our students' judgement, provide the space and time when possible to reflect on their learning and allow them to take responsibility for how they learn.
I hope you find these examples useful, and I would love to hear how this worked for you and what other suggestions and changes you can do to make the learning process more fun and effective.
Until next time, I am Angela Quinones Corsini, and this is The Coaching Culture in Education.