How do we learn?

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I’ve just started doing the University of London’s ‘What Future for Education’ course through Coursera. For the first class we’ve been asked to reflect on a successful learning experience and an unsuccessful learning experience.

I think my most successful learning experiences have been when I’ve been able to learn in a way that is tailored to me as a learner. At my first high school I’d often get ahead of the rest of the class, at least in some of my classes. I can remember that some teachers would expect students to just sit quietly once they had finished, but I really appreciated when one of my geography teachers just allowed me to do the classwork at my own pace, and then gave me additional learning material to explore once I’d finished all of the required work. While I was at that school I also appreciated that they let me spend three months travelling around the country with my family, and saw this as an opportunity for me to be responsible for my own learning.

I contrast, I always found most kinds of mathematics really difficult. I found that when I couldn’t keep up with the class the teacher would move on without me, and there wasn’t time to help me get it. By the time I got to year 11 I was walking out of class because I didn’t have the sense that I was getting anywhere. I also didn’t have much of a sense of any purpose for understanding mathematics since I wasn’t planning to work in science or technology.

I’m wondering, what have been your successful or unsuccessful experiences of learning?

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