Gateway Blog: Steven Lock #5 How do you learn?

Learning is the “acquisition of knowledge or skill through study, experience or being taught” (Oxford English Dictionary).

My definition, which is perhaps not as concise: “learning is receiving information, making sense of it, understanding it and being able to apply it”

One of the assignments on the CLL Gateway course is to research a topic and present your findings to the class. As I am enjoying learning new things I decided to look at the theory and practise of learning, here are some of the things I found.

It has long been acknowledged that people have learning preferences. Individuals have a better chance of understanding information if it is presented to them in a favourable format. In its simplest form this would be either seeing it, hearing it or doing it themselves.

Neil Fleming wrote extensively about learning theory and describes four main preferences, he uses the acronym VARK:

Visual – Images, photographs, diagrams, video and illustrations.

Auditory – Lectures, podcasts, group discussions, verbal Q+A, recital of key points.

Read/Write – Written text, lists, note taking and further reading

Kinaesthetic – Hands on learning, role play, models, practical experiments

Some people respond well to a blend of these methods, but most have a bias toward one or two preferences. It can be useful to know what your preferences may be, so you can look for the information in a more suitable package e.g. listening to an audiobook rather than reading the text, taking an active part in discussions with your fellow students instead of studying in isolation. Draw diagrams and flow charts to illustrate theories or put theories into context by weaving them into a story of events linked to people. The are many possibilities.

Flemings VARK questionnaire is available to try at:  http://vark-learn.com/the-vark-questionnaire/

The research that resonated more with my personal learning was David Kolb’s Experiential Learning Cycle. Kolb maintains that one cannot learn without first having an Experience. Following this Experience is a period of Reflective Observation where the learner makes sense of the event and gains an understanding of what has happened. Conceptualisation is next, where the learner concludes, makes amendments and forms the idea into a concept to try out in the last stage which is Active Experimentation, applying the new idea to form the next experience. Then start again and the cycle continues.

Having read this theory it’s clear to me that I spend a lot of time in Reflective Observation. Its useful to have this insight and now I can plan this into my study time.

There are many more learning style theories to look at, some linked with personality types and some with basic tests that can be done to help identify how you might learn more efficiently.

I will leave you with the same question I started with,

How do you learn?

About the Author

Steve Lock

I’m Steve Lock and I’m on the Gateway to Higher Education at CLL. I’m not an academic, I’ve been employed in practical roles throughout my working life. I’ve been in the Armed Forces and now work in the Emergency Services. My next personal challenge is education, have a look at my blog to see how I’m getting on…..

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