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Not all LEARNing is created equal!

Stay out of school (Margaret Mead quote) Ver 03

Tony…get back to LEARNing! ...NOW!

8 It’s just that the Immortal Declaration ain’t truewe are not created equally. 8

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OK…he’s back on track!8 For many years (and far too many words) I have been asking why it is that our educational institutions cannot evidence the LEARNing they “create” - and why most do not even try! I’m not talking about standardised test scoresthese frequently do little more than evidence the lack of real LEARNing in our schools. And, I’m certainly not talking about the way “top universities” cream off the best high school students and then take credit for “results” they had little to do with. I’m talking about the real “added LEARNing value” that schools produce. Very few…and I mean VERY few educational institutions can do this.



4 types of LEARNing Ver 03
  1. Looking for meaning

  2. Focusing on central ideas and arguments

  3. Active interaction

  4. The ability to distinguish between evidence and argument

  5. Making numerous connections

  6. Relating new knowledge and ideas to previous knowledge

  7. Linking classroom learning to real-life8 However, if we only look at DEEP and SURFACE LEARNing as “approaches to study” by students themselves – we actually come up with a neat little “get-out-of-jail-free card” and can abdicate all responsibility for LEARNing by simply “blaming” students for any form of “failure” that crops up. Basically, we can turn around and say all these characteristics are the things that students have to / should “do” themselves (in order to be successful) – and if not…hey, we did our “best” with “bad” tools! Most other business organisations and companies would give their right arms for a “trick” like this! 8 The question remains:

How do most students LEARN these approaches to LEARNing?8 Students are not “born” with the ability to relate new knowledge to old. There is no “gene” that fires up and allows students to relate classroom LEARNing to the “real world” – they LEARN this stuff from their LEARNing experiences, they LEARN this from “schools”! They also LEARN this from how we TEACH them (over years and years), the LEARNing experiences we design for them and they way we reward them – as teachers. 8


OK – they might not use those actual words but you get the idea.8 TRANSFORMATIONAL LEARNing is what we know (in our heart of hearts) education should be about. I mean isn’t the point of all education supposed to be about making REAL differences to the lives (and futures) of REAL people (even “little” people)… The sad truth is that many schools, colleges and universities say this is the “business” they are in – few can prove it.


  1. Reliance on rote learning or memorisation

  2. Passive reception of information

  3. Few, or no, connections made to previous knowledge

  4. Focus on formulae needed to solve problems

  5. Course content viewed simply as material to be learnt for examinations8 However, it is not the characteristics per se that expose SUPERFICIAL LEARNing for what it is – but rather, according to Cohen et al., what this variety of LEARNing tends to be encouraged by;

  6. Excessive amounts of material and inert, discrete knowledge as facts

  7. An excessive amount of material in the curriculum

  8. Relatively high class-contact hours

  9. Lack of opportunity to pursue subjects in depth

  10. Lack of choice of subjects and methods of study

  11. Cynical or conflicting messages about rewards

  12. Poor or absent feedback on progress

  13. Fear of failure, and, therefore, attempts to avoid failure

  14. Lack of independence in studying

  15. Lack of interest in, and background knowledge of, the subject matter

  16. Assessment methods that create anxiety and that emphasise recall or application of trivial knowledge – rather than asking students to apply understanding

  17. Lack of reflective analysis of learning and assessments8 Now, I’m not sure if you would agree with me – but as I look at this list, I see many of the things that schools systems, institutions and teachers “do to students" and far fewer "approaches to study" (on the part of students).


TEACHers, too…

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We are, after all, the most powerful determinant of the type of LEARNing produced by our institutions!

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