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What promotes learning?

I’m hoping to gather a few thoughts in advance of a workshop I’m co-facilitating at the 2009 Plymouth e-learning Conference next week.

What I’d like you to do is to imagine a learning environment or situation that doesn’t use ICT; any learning environment – formal or informal; led, facilitated or self-directed…

(whirring of cogs)

…and now I’d like you to name ONE thing about that environment or situation that YOU think would promote learning. Don’t think about it too much – just go down to ‘Leave a Reply’ and write down the first thing that comes into your head…

Thank you :-)

49 Comments on “What promotes learning?”

  1. A psychologically safe learning environment

  2. Discussion, collaboration.

  3. Being treated like an adult, not like an idiot by ‘lecturers’

  4. informal gatheringss before, after and during.

  5. Coffee

  6. appropriate and interesting challenge

  7. knowledge of the learner – via prior knowledge and formative assessment – giving feedback and feed forward.

    knowledge of learning – own knowledge – so know where to take the learner.

  8. No such thing as an non ICT learning scenario in my world ;-)

    But thinking back to when there was, I would have to say the *one* thing which promoted learning for me was genuine enthusiasm for the subject on the part of the teacher.

  9. As each learner comes through the door at the beginning of the day, I ask myself ‘what do they bring with them?’. They are not empty vessels or blank slates and always have something to contribute to any learning.

  10. interaction

  11. Interactivity.

  12. Modafinil or amphetemines? Both backed up with statistical study to enhance learning.

  13. A critical mass of willingness to learn – including the teacher

  14. A need to know – the learner having a specific purpose in mind.

  15. I’m not sure there’s anything I can add to what’s already been said. But I’ll say that once you’ve eliminated the ICT component of teaching, you’ve probably already improved learning. PowerPoint is one of the biggest calamities to strike the world of teaching and presentations in a long time.

    Get away from slides and anything else that distracts from the person talking and limits what they say. Instead, hand out prepared notes at the end. That is my opinion.

    I despise most uses of ICT in a classroom / lecture.

  16. Taliesin wrote…
    “I’m not sure there’s anything I can add to what’s already been said. But I’ll say that once you’ve eliminated the ICT component of teaching, you’ve probably already improved learning. PowerPoint is one of the biggest calamities to strike the world of teaching and presentations in a long time.”

    …discuss…!

    I would suggest that using Powerpoint in order to read from bulleted lists can be rather calamitous. But there’s another way…

    http://www.slideshare.net/garr/brain-rules-for-presenters

    I would also suggest that removing the ICT component of L&T might have quite a deleterious effect on the experience of distance learners. But I think I understand the point you’re making; that good learning & teaching in a face-to-face context doesn’t have to include ICT.

  17. another person

  18. A context that encourages curiosity and engages with the intrinsic motivation of the learner.

  19. Comment 1 fed direct to me…

    • Using your enthusiasm for the subject to generate enthusiasm for it/learning in the students.

    • Drawing on/valuing student prior knowledge wherever possible (eg when I used to discuss osteoarthritis – or other common conditions – rather than tell students the signs and symptoms, I would get the students to generate a list, typically drawing on their observations of elderly relatives or work experience etc)

    • Further interaction – eg asking/guiding students to relate theory to practice rather than make the links for them… minimising the telling

    • Providing structure to the subject

    • Suggesting activities for outside of the classroom that reinforce their learning … including collaborative tasks

    • Making sure they understand the relevance of what they are doing – eg authentic tasks that relate to the real world… and if they still don’t believe you, get other students who do understand the relevance to convince them (we used third years to ‘sell’ psychology and sociology to the first year physiotherapy students)

    • Consider PBL – one of the best ways to make things authentic and develop autonomous learners

  20. comment 2 fed directly to me…

    The best learning environment that I have experienced without technology, were my GSCE Science lessons.

    My teacher would demonstrate chemical formulas through the use of students…….this would include us all acting as atoms, molecules etc. I can still remember the lessons like they were yesterday, thus meaning that it was memorable, which I think would promote learning. Moreover, it was a fun and interactive way to learn a rather gruelling, and for me a hard subject, which once again would promote learning (in my opinion).

    I hope that this helps, and makes sense.

  21. comment 3 fed directly to me…

    Learning situation:

    Learning to sail a dinghy – RYA practical course level 2

    Promote learning by:

    • Bonding together a group of learners different ages, backgrounds and levels of experience –
    o typical group size 8 – 12 small enough to be intimate, big enough to hide in for the scary bits
    o Start of in groups of 6 sailing with an instructor
    o Move to pairs with instructor in separate boat
    o Midweek single person in own boat sailing as a group

    • Week long course with a list of what you will do each day circulated at the beginning of the week and available beforehand

    • List of skills based learning outcomes all of which needs to be achieved by the students circulated at the start of the week – so students know what they will be able to do by the end of the course,. Each one is signed off by the instructor in a log book

    • Main fear is capsizing – all students do controlled capsize day two to confront the fear and learn how to recover from it.

    • Lots of chance for informal chat over coffee – reflection, group discussion, etc. Everyone comments on how things are going. Instructors get feedback on students experiences and can vary programme activities accordingly

  22. comment 1 fed direct to me

    • Using your enthusiasm for the subject to generate enthusiasm for it/learning in the students.

    • Drawing on/valuing student prior knowledge wherever possible (eg when I used to discuss osteoarthritis – or other common conditions – rather than tell students the signs and symptoms, I would get the students to generate a list, typically drawing on their observations of elderly relatives or work experience etc)

    • Further interaction – eg asking/guiding students to relate theory to practice rather than make the links for them… minimising the telling

    • Providing structure to the subject

    • Suggesting activities for outside of the classroom that reinforce their learning … including collaborative tasks

    • Making sure they understand the relevance of what they are doing – eg authentic tasks that relate to the real world… and if they still don’t believe you, get other students who do understand the relevance to convince them (we used third years to ‘sell’ psychology and sociology to the first year physiotherapy students)

    • Consider PBL – one of the best ways to make things authentic and develop autonomous learners

  23. One aspect that has always been the foundation of teaching is that of learning through example and repetition. This is a successful way as it not only requires the human brain for memory but involves vision and action . This way if the brain short circuits in future the information would be remembered through vision or action also.

  24. Simplicity of message delivery, coupled with scenario based explanation of more complex subjects.
    ..so no big words, except where necessary!

  25. Comment 4 fed dierectly to me

    there would need to be a purpose, or a prompt that triggers curiosity. Access to resources where further information could be found, either at the time or afterwards (e.g. the time is spent brainstorming what is known already and what needs to be explored further). It needs to be a relaxed and comfortable space, and there should be a deadline/end point.

  26. Comment 5 fed to me…

    Safe and welcoming
    Enabling to test out new (and possibly unsound) ideas
    Probing and challenging (but within the other parameters too)
    Answers the question “why?” to show justification and understanding

  27. Relaxed
    Friendly
    Fun
    Obvious what is going on
    So if thinking physically then warm, comfortable, no distractions, lots of people buzzing and chatting, social

  28. As an online distance learning having ICT allows for posts which can be read by others and interactions with people that may not normally be within your direct circle. This is good and bad.

    Reflection to me is very important in learning and having something that I can read and go back to gives me that opportunity to reflection vs an online study with limited interaction. Unfortunately, sometimes however it creates the opportunity for information overload.

  29. In formal environment, the attitude and willing to learn and sharing of knowledge of all of the participants are crucial. In informal situation, I will prefer to brainstorm with other learners or studying in a quiet room with soft background music.

  30. A good questionwill promote learning any time. Even without the answer spoken, that’s where something starts happening.

  31. ONE thing: the “click” when the learning environment manages to create the bridge between theory and practice.
    PLAN B: extrinsic motivation…

  32. A teacher’s ability to light the minds of students, engage them in an open dialog and treat them as peers

  33. Most important is knowledge of the teacher, his encouragement and his useful & continous feedback to any work done by the student.

  34. Access to people that can answer your questions and sufficient time from them to explain concepts and any issues that you are having with the work.

  35. Enthusism of students as well as Teachers in additionnal to comfortabile environment.

  36. hands-on experience. First hand involvement with a situation/environment in the field of concern. Learning by watching others and by seeing it done the correct way by a seasoned professional or mentor.

  37. coffee..
    and placing yourself in the right environment – for me, that is surrounding myself with diligent, studious fellow learners

  38. Fun, feedback, fellowship

  39. Darn, all the best answers have gone already.
    I like Matt’s “another person” but might add “another person with a bit more experience (Vygosky, scaffolding, proximal zone of development etc.).

    Space important too – sometimes stimulating, other times restful.

  40. Tony; I totally agree with you about having someone who can scaffold your learning; I feel ever so lucky to have met several such people :-)

    It’s not a problem if people duplicate answers by the way; it’ll serve to make those words nice and BIG in the tag cloud :-)

  41. Emotional Intelligence on the part of the facilitator. An understanding of emotions, reacting appropriately to them, and the part they play in discussion can help the learner to greater discovery as they search. Something vital in the arena I teach in (healthcare), where the human factor and relationships are of primary importance in all we do.

  42. An interest to advance ones self. Interest in a topic or the importance of said topic to the bigger picture to be emphasised. Or an interesting opening introduction into said topic.

    Discovery style learning tasks, with informed feedback or slight directional advice.

  43. Concise!

  44. [...] thoughts from a wider audience (via Twitter) on “What promotes learning?” resulting in 42 responses.  The session itself was a good mix of presenting, discussion and feeding back as we worked [...]

  45. Keep updated, sharing kowledge, meet experts

  46. Teachers/facilitators who build on the knowledge of their participants and so acknowledge they are not empty vessels to be filled, and also that good learning happens when new knowledge is connected to the mental models of the learners. It is the old adage of “Start where your students are at”.

  47. I appreciate this blog, thanks

    Empathy helps with the learning process.
    Hard to describe… having genuine, positive regard for people, I think, makes them more apt to learn from me.

  48. Empathy helps with the learning process.
    Hard to describe… having genuine, positive regard for people, I think, makes them more apt to learn from me.

  49. adequate learning environment to enable group learning

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