Learning How to Learn

The difference in the futures of our young people compared to those of 50 or even 30 years ago, is that change is occurring not just at a rapid rate but rapidly accelerating. As the future for today’s students unfolds, it will appear far different from that which we are experiencing today. So we are preparing our students for a somewhat murky future, one that lacks the clarity of past generations. What is clear though is that learning how to learn will be vitally important, more so than ever before.

In the 90’s the trend in education was of Learning Styles – Visual, Audio and Kinaesthetic. The idea was that we all had a particular learning style and, taken further, that teachers were supposed to teach every lesson to every different learning style in the classroom. What the theory behind this concept actually said was, we all have a preferred learning style, be aware of it; it is a strength, but make sure that you practice other ways of learning so you have the ability to learn in a variety of ways. Then, when presented with a problem or concept, students have a number of different strategies to tackle it in order to find a solution.

Recent, however, research has found no scientific evidence to support this concept.

Regardless of whether we agree with the concept of learning styles or not, what I hope we all agree on is that we want our young people to have a range of ways and strategies to help them with their learning. In educating our students for their future we must all be nurturing their ability in ‘Learning How to Learn’. If a student struggles to spell a word, solve a problem or understand a concept, they need to be able to employ other ways to do so. Finding information has never been easier, but the ability of a person to move their learning forward, to be a valuable team member and contribute to the learning dynamic in each educational setting all feeds into a person’s confidence, courage, tenacity, sense of responsibility and self-awareness.

This vision of someone who can adapt their learning to the current situation brings to my mind people such as Michaelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci, who were painters, sculptors, engineers, architects, creators and inventors – whatever was required by the circumstances at the time. We must make sure that our students don’t put themselves, or allow themselves to be put, in a box and categorised by the notion of a predisposed, inflexible thinking style.

Andy Müller