Monday, August 17, 2015


We begin this series on promoting effective learning by thinking about how we define effective learning. What does ‘effective’ mean? How do we know that our students are learning effectively?

It’s all about Remembering and Applying
Fundamentally, we want them to first of all, be able to remember what we have taught them. If our students don’t remember a single thing of we have taught them, then they can’t very well do the next thing that we would agree is fundamental to effective learning, and that is, apply the knowledge which they have learnt.

What you really want them to remember
Now, we need to pay attention to just what we want our students to remember. Do we want them to remember what we have said, or do we want them to remember what we have taught? This may come as a surprise, but there is a big difference. For those of us who have delivered the same lesson to different classes, we would have realized that no two lessons are identical. Though the content covered may be the same, the examples used for illustration may be the same, but the angle is sometimes different, the pitching is sometimes different, and that is because we are facing different audiences in each class.

But does that really bother us? What is truly important is that the students get the message behind the lesson, true? So the sooner you realize that it is the message that is important, you will then begin to focus on delivering the message in a way that is accessible to your students. And that is the first step to planning effective lessons; understanding just what you want them to learn.

It’s time to apply
Once you have got the delivery sorted, then comes the next step; checking. How do you know that they have learnt what you have taught them? You obviously need to check. And you do that by giving the students tasks or quizzes. Now we will talk more on tasks and quizzes in another section. But for now, just think. If your task does not allow them to demonstrate the information or skill that you want them to retain, how will you ever know if they have learnt that piece of information? It’s a bit like this…

Made you think, didn’t it? Does your task make them demonstrate the message behind the lesson, or merely show you that they could function as a walking tape recorder? Did your task allow them to use the information learnt, or did it require them to just repeat what you said in class?

Before we can even begin to talk about effective learning, we need to be clear within ourselves about what exactly we want our students to learn. Only then can we be effective in planning our lessons and start to think improving their ability to remember and apply.

Next up: Why we remember what we remember

Understanding Education

How to promote Effective Learning

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