Be the boss of your own learning - part 3
Précis of Part Two:
Asking questions and facilitating reflection lead to awareness and evaluation of learning processes. Becoming aware of how we learn and monitoring and evaluating our learning are important ingredients in developing the ability of ‘learning to learn’.
Measuring the benefits of learning strategies and their results
Results are measurable. And, so are the benefits of learning strategies. Learners can compare the strategies they used and the results they achieved and talk with you to make an evaluation of what works best for them. They can also compare the benefits of the strategies they were using earlier with the benefits of the strategies they adapted later, following their evaluation.
Evaluation does not have to be boring. It is possible to make the evaluation process enjoyable and fun by incorporating interactive games, story writing, drawing and colourful representations. We also complete short questionnaires together with our learners and encourage keeping learning journals or diaries with audio visual input.
Young children and learners with special educational needs can compare previous learning and results with their current learning and results using drawings and pictures.
Activities to Foster Reflection and Evaluation
Following the comparison, invite them to evaluate. Ask: What are the reasons in achieving the results you have? Let them come up with their own answers and, if possible, talk with them about the insights gained from their learning journal, where they can keep a record of their development.
The skill of learning to learn is best taught to learners concurrently with context. Children and young learners will pick up these skills if you demonstrate them as they are learning something. We do not try to teach them as an add-on and we do not underestimate learners' ability to engage in spontaneous conversations about their learning.
Taking control of one’s learning to achieve success
John Biggs (1985) is credited with creating and defining the skill of learning to learn. His conception was framed around the idea of being aware of, evaluating and taking control of one’s own learning. For learners to achieve their goals successfully the necessary key principles are: awareness of and the ability to monitor and evaluate one’s own behaviour and learning; a positive frame of mind with a ‘can-do’ attitude; and, the ability to take appropriate action.
Lifelong learners are successful if and only if they keep adjusting their learning strategies to suit the opportunities and challenges available to them. Therefore, it is necessary to understand how we learn and our strengths and weaknesses. But we must also understand and evaluate the learning processes and then be able to take swift action to make changes in order to reach our goals.
So, the third requirement is the ability to take action in accordance with evaluation, following the selection of strategies that are useful and elimination of the others – it is the ability to control one’s learning to achieve success.
Can the learners you are working with, whether they are adults or children, select and develop useful strategies and discard the less beneficial ones? Can they channel their comparisons and evaluations of their learning into action?
At schools, teachers can explain what the children will learn or achieve by the end of the lesson by writing the learning objectives on the board at the beginning of a lesson. There is usually an introduction during which students can learn what the learning goals or objectives of the lesson are in the beginning. At the end of the lesson the children are invited to evaluate whether they were successful in achieving the objectives.
The learning objectives are shared with the children, so that they know what is expected of them during the lesson. Parents could build on this process further by helping children to take action in accordance with their assessment of how well they achieved the learning objectives set for them in class.
Learners may have academic goals, but they may have also other goals relating to skills such as social, organisational, job searching or work. Goals provide a sense of direction and motivation. By setting goals learners provide themselves with a target to aim for.
Students who lack this skill of ‘learning to learn’ do not develop a sense of self-efficacy. They are not empowered to take risks in learning. And, children who study but are not successful in achieving their goals feel like helpless victims in the end. They believe that failure is unchangeable.