Learning –Teachers teach, Learners learn

Teaching and learning go hand in hand. It is the responsibility of a teacher to teach and that of the learner is to learn. They must play their roles for effective learning to take place. Therefore, I shall address some of the principles for effective learning and teaching subsequently.

Principles Guiding Effective Learning

What is learning? Learning is “the acquisition of knowledge or skills through experience, study, or by being taught. Through the principles of learning one can gain insight into what makes people learn most effectively. The principles have been discovered, tested, and used in practical situations.  When we have the knowledge of some principles on how learning takes place, we will be guided on how to teach. Some key concepts of learning from (http://www.skillsyouneed.com/learn/learning)

People learn best when they are treated with respect and are not talked down to or treated as ignorant.  Establishing ground rules at the start of a training session will reinforce this important principle However, for the training to be most effective and to involve full participation; the trainer should model such exemplary behaviour.

Learning opportunities should, when possible, be linked to previous positive experience – this involves self-awareness on the part of the learner and understanding and empathy on the part of any facilitator.  Learning can be blocked by past negative experiences – some people who hated school cannot bear to be in a classroom situation, for example. When possible learners should take part in the planning of learning activities.  Learners should be encouraged to be self-directing in terms of goal-setting since this usually improves commitment and motivation and increases participation.  Facilitators should examine the expectations of the learner at the start of a course or session to help to encourage self-direction.

People learn best when their physical environment is comfortable.  In group situations a positive emotional and supportive environment is also important; individuals in groups tend to learn best when they can socialise and interact with other group members.

Interaction with a facilitator is vital.  People need to be able to react, question and voice opinions on what they are learning.  Generally, in group situations, quieter members should be gently encouraged for their input.

Learning activities and/or delivery need to be varied, to cover the range of different learning styles and help the learner maintain interest and motivation.  In a classroom setting, for example, including discussions or other activities, especially some sort of problem solving, as part of a lesson or lecture will enable learners to interact and engage with the subject.

Instant rewards help.  People learn best if the results and/or rewards of learning are made clear and can be demonstrated during or immediately after the learning experience.

Self-evaluation and reflective practice is important.  Learners should be encouraged to reflect on what they have learnt and think about ways that they can further their knowledge.

The Law of the Learner

The duty of a teacher is not that of a driver or a task master but rather that of a counsellor and a guide. His aim is to develop secondary passive attention –best done by making the stages of advancement gradual so that while the pupil must put forth effort in grasping each new step in lesson or series of lessons the completion of each step will also make the effort seem worthwhile Gregory, (p.42)

Never begin a class exercise until the attention of the class has been secured. Pause whenever the attention is interrupted or lost, and wait until it is completely regained. Never wholly exhaust the attention of your pupils. Stop as soon as signs of fatigue appear. Adapt the length of the class exercise to the ages of the pupils. Arouse attention when necessary by variety in your presentation but be careful to avoid distractions keep the real lesson in view. kindle and maintain the highest possible interest in the subject. Interest and attention react upon each other. Present those aspects of the lesson and use such illustrations as will correspond to the ages and attainment of the pupils.

Appeal whenever possible to the interest of your pupils. The favourite stories, songs and subjects of the pupils are often keys to their interest and attention. Find out what these are, and make use of them. Look for sources of distraction, such as unusual noises inside the classroom and out and reduce them to the minimum.

Prepare beforehand thought-provoking questions-Be sure these are not beyond the ages and attainments of your pupils. Make your presentation as attractive as possible using illustrations and all legitimate devices. Do not let these devices be so prominent as to become sources of distraction. Maintain and exhibit in yourself the closest attention to aid most genuine interest in the lesson. True enthusiasm is contagious. Study the best uses of the eyes and the hand. Your pupils will respond to your earnest gaze and your lifted hand.

Other principles of learning that may be informative in this seminar are from those prepared by (Allain http://www.slidesshare.net) and Horne and Pine (1990). The principles of learning provide additional insight into what makes people learn most effectively. The principles have been discovered, tested, and used in practical situations.  By knowing some principles on how learning takes place, we will be guided on how to teach. Some of these principles are

  • If you are not willing to learn, no one can help you. If you are willing to learn, no one can stop you’’. To learn therefore, be willing.
  • Learning is an experience which occurs inside the learner and is activated by the learner.
  • No one directly teaches anyone anything of significance… ‘’people learn what they want to learn, they see what they want to see, and hear what they want to hear’’.
  • Learning is the discovery of the personal meaning and relevance of ideas.
  • Learning is a cooperative and collaborative process. Cooperation fosters learning.
  • One of the richest resources of learning is the learner himself.
  • Laws of learning law of effect- learning is strengthened when accompanied by a pleasant or satisfying feeling. Learning is weakened when associated with an unpleasant feeling. Learning takes place properly when it results in satisfaction and the learner derives pleasure out of it Thorndike (1932)
  • Law of exercise- things most often repeated are best remembered. Students do not learn complex tasks in a singles session.
  • Law of readiness individuals learn best when they are physically, mentally and emotionally ready to learn, and they do not learn well if they see no reason for learning
  • Law of primacy things learned first create a strong impression. ‘’what is taught must be right the first time’’. to know the importance of ‘’teaching what is right in the very beginning‘’
  • Law of freedom thing freely learned are best learned. The greater the freedom enjoyed by the students in the class, the greater the intellectual and moral advancement enjoyed by them.