How do we learn better?
Stop for one minute and think. Do you know someone that was really into school? That really enjoyed going to classes and to learn “that way”?!
Well, I was that person. I really liked school, and the education system was not a problem for me. Except when I had to memorize ‘word by word’ documents, or when the classes were not challenging enough.
I didn’t see a point in “memorizing” for the test, and I was critical about it. I enjoyed making connections, discovering new ideas, and learning as much as possible.
Back then, I didn’t know a thing about “learning styles” or “experiential learning”. Still, I quickly understood, while working with my colleagues, that some of them didn’t comprehend the subjects the same way as I did. And that was ok, I knew we were all different and all as such, but why?! And how could I help them with that?!
Ten years and a few Erasmus+ training courses later, I learned about learning styles and I realized everyone can learn differently. To learn “better” we should discover which learning style we have or prefer, depending on the subject, the context, and in which stage of the process we are at the moment.
Here is an easy example before jumping into theory. Think about the moment when someone arrives from a furniture store with all the packages and instructions. That’s a crucial moment to understand if we, as humans, could have a chance to survive the apocalypse. Ok, maybe I don’t need to be that dramatic.
Going back to assembling a desk from IKEA.
What is the first thing you do when you need to put furniture together (considering that you open the box first)?!
Find the instructions and start to read it.
Take everything out, and start separating all the pieces.
Try to find a video tutorial about how to assemble the furniture and then start doing it.
Ask someone how to do it and follow this person’s instructions.
Hands-on! Start doing it!
Ask someone to do it for you.
Maybe the answer is not, always, the same. But I bet you have a pattern on how to assemble it and you naturally start doing it. Well, I start by reading every single instruction. But most of my friends don’t. We all do things differently and with learning processes, it is the same thing.
Teaching someone how to build a desk and preparing a session plan for a learning experience can have something in common. Here, we are not talking about the subject, but how do you plan it and facilitate the learning process.
In non-formal education, when preparing learning experiences, we take into consideration David Kolb’s learning cycle. The cycle is based on experiential learning, focusing on a “hands-on” approach. David Kolb divides the cycle into four steps, the first step is experience, second step reflection, third step generalisation, and fourth step application. These four steps are important in the learning process, and each person can “start” the process in any step. Therefore, we should design a learning experience using all the four steps, so everyone can complete the learning cycle and have a meaningful experience.
Knowing more about how people learn, can help us, trainers, teachers, and educators in general, to better design and prepare learning experiences for our participants and pupils.
Going back to the beginning of this article, now I understand that, the way I prefer to learn “school subjects”, fits perfectly the traditional school system. I learn faster when reading and writing, although I feel more challenged when I get out of my comfort zone and start practicing and roleplaying.
In the end, it is about the person/the group that you have in front of you, the context, the subject, and at which stage of the learning process they are at.
After all, don’t you learn better with meaningful learning experiences that suit you?!
Beatriz Branco, Team Mais