Saturday, July 29, 2017

How Does Learning Happen?

I've read a bit about cognition and learning. I've observed learners for many years. As I think about this, I believe that the following efforts set the stage and forward good learning.

Awaken Curiosity and Interest in the Topic
Well before the actual learning event, invite students to think about the topic by introducing the big idea via the Internet, a classroom poster, letters or discussion. Pique curiosity, begin the learning path.

Provide Rationale and Learning Goals
Then in real time present or create the rationale and learning goals with the learners. Why is this learning valuable, necessary or planned? What are the learning goals?

Create Learning Paths
Think with learners about the many ways that they are able to reach these learning goals, and then give lots of choice, voice and leadership to the learners as they navigate the learning path. Provide a good number and variety of learning experiences to help the learners reach their goals.

Reflection, Revision Points
Stop now and then to reflect and potentially revise learning paths. Revisit rationale and learning goals at these points, then think about how you're doing with regard to reaching those goals. Identify further needs too.

Formal and informal assessment should occur along the way to see if you're actually learning and reaching the goals set. At the end of the effort a final assessment of some kind should be completed. That assessment should assess well if you've reached the goal or not and what went well and what could have been better. The final assessment should result in a report, product or presentation of some kind to solidify the learning completed and to identify next steps and future goals.

Too often learning goals and needs are projected on communities and learners without good rationale and process. This kind of learning tends to hang in the air without much traction or real impact. People sometimes think if you say it, the learning will happen, but that's not how learning happens. Real learning depends on good process, and good process takes time to create, embed, revise and direct for yourself and with others.

It's critical that educators promote brain-friendly, learner-centered learning rather than old fashion do-what-I-say learning that typically results in less breadth, depth and reach. Do you agree?