Teaching is Not Learning

Usually in schooling it is the students who are tested.

And so attention has gone into helping students learn.

The way this was done, for decades, was by studying what teachers do.  This doesn’t really make sense.  It was hoped that by improving teaching then learning would follow.  This turned out to  not quite be the case.  Learning is what students do and so it is what learners (not teachers) do that should be studied.

With an on line course, like this blog (which has no teachers), this is important.

So what is learning about and what can you do about it?  There is a truck load of different studies on this.

Here is a brief summary of what I think are useful pieces of advice for learning. 

1. We learn by doing not by ‘learning about’.
Whatever you are learning: do as much as you can with it.  How does what you are learning help you understand and/or live your life?  How can you use it to help yourself or others?
To help you do this it may be helpful to keep a record, some kind of diary or journal.  Everyone I know who has done this has found it helpful.

2. We learn the meaning not the details.
So to grasp the details have a clear idea of the meaning for you.  How does what you are learning fit with the rest of your life?  The better the fit the more you will have learned.  The principle of “to the one who has shall more be given’ applies here.

3. It helps to have a big picture to slot the details into.
Whatever you are learning get a sense of an overview, what the parts are and how they fit together.  This is not a summary (which you can make at the end and is a brief presentation of the main ideas).  In acupuncture my overview is: health, sickness, therapy.  Under health in acupuncture my overview is: vital fluids produced by the organs flowing through the channels, and so on.  The main ideas can then get slotted in under these headings and summarised later.  The overview can give you a sense of where things fit and why they matter.

4. Find how you learn best.
There are various lists of different ways to learn.  The simplest is probably: head, heart, hand.  Head people (like me) think about stuff and think about the ideas, heart people are more engaged by people – how what they are learning relates to people and how it can be used to help them, hand people want to know how it works and learn by playing around with stuff.
Head people can: put ideas in their own words, find the main ideas for each area studied.
Heart people can: figure out how to use this stuff to help others.
Hand people: can make a model (on paper or out of cardboard or some other material).  If nothing else move around when you’re learning.

5. Make it fun.
Having to discipline yourself is a warning sign.  If you are not enjoying what you are studying ask why.  Then try to find a way to make it fun.

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