How People Learn
Learning takes place in all stages of life: teenagers who go directly from high school to college, adults who stop and then return to school after years of work or family commitments, and even retirees who pursue learning made possible by expanded leisure time. Some education takes place formally within higher education; other opportunities are informal, sponsored by organizations such as museums and libraries or available for free online. This course provides an introduction to the research and science of learning, integrating theory with environments.
I did not have to take this course; it was not a requirement. Instead it was one of several options. No, I chose to take this course. And perhaps this says something about me, but I'd like to think it says something about the course. The title made me curious, How People Learn, I mean who isn't curious about how we learn? That made me want to know more, and knowing more was an immediate benefit of this class, and one that continued to grow as each week passed. You are immersed deeply into this world of learning from day one.
The first week, before we ever picked up a book we had to complete our first assignment. A map of what we believed learning was. I thought long and hard about it. Made lists. Revised lists. And when I was done it still felt incomplete. In my mind a single map cannot contain it all. I still feel that way. It is simply too large, too dynamic a subject to be held on a single page. You need a globe, no, a galaxy to contain this. It was however, interesting to discover amongst my classmates maps what had been included in all of them, and it was even more interesting to discover what had not been included at all.
Soon after that map and following an intense amount of assigned reading we began the true work of learning. Reading, reflecting, discussing, challenging each other and ourselves. Each week some "knowledge changing" piece of the How People Learn puzzle was pulled apart and explored with an eager curiosity. I'll share some of biggest ah-ha moments of the course, so that you too reader, may begin to understand what has made this such an interesting and inspiring course:
- "...when learners' expertise increases, physically integrating multiple sources of information (as a means to minimize split of attention) first lost its advantage and then became disadvantageous in comparison to a physically separated presentation" (Schnotz, W., and Kurschner, C., 2007). In other words as a learner moves from novice to subject matter expert the way material is presented must also move in accordance with the level of expertise, otherwise the student becomes distracted by extraneous information and learning is reduced.
- Learning is often thought of as something that falls along a continuum. It turns out that this is something that I agree with and caution against as well. I do believe learning lay along a continuum, but not a single continuum. Instead I believe that we each fall along multiple continuum's of learning, where dependent upon subject matter we may be at one end (the novice) or the other (the subject matter expert).
- Technology has not killed learning. I repeat. Technology has N-O-T killed learning. There are those who think that technology has changed how people learn to the point where current learning paradigms are methuselah's, long overdue for death. I argue otherwise. Consider please, that the unprecedented technological advances that have dramatically changed our environments do not negate the slow evolution of human biology. Our brains are largely the same; we are working with the same limitations in cognition. And until our bodies adapt to this “new” environment, I believe that current and even classic learning theories remain largely relevant.
I have a deeper understanding today of what learning is and how people learn, and it is as much from the materials provided in this course as it is from the communication with peers and our instructor. Through this course I better recognize the methods of instruction that I find in my other courses--where they excel and where they fall short. And without thought, an internal almost instinctual response was to connect this course with a previous course, Culture, Equity, Power & Influence. You see I think how we learn is inextricably tied to who we are, our cultural identities--I further believe that in recognizing this, in taking ownership of it, we take the power to make change, for ourselves and for others. That by understanding ourselves deeply we can forge a new path, no matter where we have come from and no matter the numerous obstacles in our way.
And this really, readers, is but a small glimpse into what I have learned in this class and what I will carry with me throughout my life as I continue to engage in the world of learning around me. Learning is not simple. It is deeply complex and nearly impossible to define or contain. Every fiber of who we are, affects how we learn. Learning is not fixed, it is not a finite component of innate talent. Learning is the infinite possibilities of a malleable mind.
So go forth good reader, and seek your curiosity. Your mind is waiting for you.
My Learning Map: Part I
This assignment was the first in the course. Required before any related material was assigned or read. It was to unwrap what we believed as individual students, it was to wrap our minds around what we thought learning was. This is what I thought learning was, here in this colorful map. But this is not all that I believe learning to be. But to contain that, I would have had to have constructed an atlas and that my readers was simply not possible!
My Learning Map: Part II
We would revisit our maps near the end of the course, after all of the information was ingested, during a period of connecting, reflecting and synthesizing. With our new knowledge we would revise our concepts and create a new map of what learning is. And though there are colorful categories, each of these is linked through the inherent web created in learning. Everything is related.
Signature Assignment One: Personal Competency Model
Please see Personal Competency Model link to the left.
Signature Assignment Two: Case Study and Presentation
Visit my Case Study ePortfolio:
Big Ideas Blog
Please see Big Ideas Blog to the left.
Big Ideas Synthesis Paper
Please see Big Ideas Synthesis Paper to the left.