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Understand Learning Better

Learning changes a person, and in doing so makes them a more effective worker. Getting a qualification is not necessarily learning – sometimes it is, sometimes it isn’t.  Having a qualification means you have passed an exam. Like a drivers test, that means you drove a car at one point in time well enough to be assessed as competent, but we all see plenty of incompetent drivers who have their licence.

Authentic learning isn’t just about knowing facts. Anyone can open a book, read how to grow a plant for example, and tell you what they had read. A properly educated horticulturist can look at a plant species they have not seen before, and determine it’s plant family, then knowing that, deduce an appropriate way of growing it, taking account of  the resources available, and in the context at hand. To learn anything well takes time and reinforcement. 

If you encounter a piece of information, and understand it, it will enter your short-term memory. You may well recall that a few hours or even days later but without reinforcement, it won’t be retained in long term memory. To ensure retention, the content needs to be covered and explored in a variety of contexts, you may not see the full range of applications for that knowledge. It is perfectly feasible for people to do a course and be assessed before information evaporates from short term memory. Having qualifications achieved this way may look good,  but they don’t make you a more effective worker or an expert! 

To achieve proper, meaningful learning – for yourself, or in your employees, you must encounter what you study in different contexts, at different times, and embed your learning properly in long term memory. Use your school, the school staff and the support resources available from IARC to achieve this. 

Extract of a blog post from acseduonline by IARC President John Mason.