Friday, January 20, 2017

What We Know About Learning

As teachers debated the best course of action with regard to learners today, I found myself thinking about what I believe to be true with regard to learning. Here's what I know:

  • Learning mostly happens in a step-by-step fashion. Yes sometimes people take leaps and the steps are not always linear, but typically people learn over time in a somewhat developmental way.
  • Learning can happen in many different ways, and it takes metacognition to know what works best for one's own learning. When teaching others it takes careful observation, conversation, trial-and-error, and research-based practice to decide what works best for a child or group of children.
  • Learning demands practice. It's rare that people learn something on a first try, but instead it takes lots of practice to master a skill.
  • Learning requires connection making so it's best to connect new concepts with past concepts for rich learning.
  • Learning requires consistency. Generally it's difficult for someone to learn well if the content and pedagogy is changing too much. Patterns can support good learning. There's a balance here, however, because too much predictability can also dull the mind. Hence, the teachers and students have to be mindful of their learning patterns.
As I work with learners, I'll reach for the following:
  • Looking at developmental learning charts to assess what students know and what is their next best learning goal.
  • Using assessments, observation, and conversation to set good learning goals.
  • Working at those goals in a variety of ways assessing all the time which methods result in best gains and positive learning.
  • Building confidence, engagement, and investment by making students well aware of their good knowledge, goals, and achievements. Celebrating gains and setting just right, achievable goals.
  • Enlisting the support of other educators, students, and family members to help students make those gains in ways that make a positive difference.
Knowing where you are and where you are going is a big part of learning--a part of learning we need to share and encourage with students. We know a lot about learning. And yes, there's still more to learn. Please let me know if you have any suggestions to add to this post in that regard.