Effective learning – what are the ingredients?

19 Jul

Creating a truly learner centered educational environment requires quite a few thoughts even before the learning-teaching interaction begins. You as teacher must make a choice of the frame of reference to be used. Sometimes this choice is an unintentional one – especially if you have not reflected upon your own learning philosophy.

To promote effective learning you should think about the learning environment (both emotional and physical) to ensure there are no obstacles for learning. Students prior knowledge plays a major part in their learning, and if you start teaching where the curriculum tells you to start, you may be passing by their actual horizon of understanding.

Some students arrive to the class ready to learn – others do not. Finding gentle ways to increase the readiness, and decreasing the fears, anxieties and misconceptions of students ensures a less bumpy ride towards the mutual goal: effective learning. Also, an aptitude for learning is highly individual among students in any given group. You as their teacher can either help students to become more interested in what they are learning – or simply communicate about passing the test as a measurement of education and learning itself not being important. Imagine how huge difference there is in between those two approaches! Yet we sometimes non-verbally communicate about passing/performing instead of learning.

Students’ own goals and their motivation to learn are also related to the learning aptitude. Certain (widely accepted) classroom practices actually cater for extrinsic motivation (i.e. performing tasks for a reward), which does not help your students to become lifelong learners. The last piece in this picture of effective learning is the quality of teaching – actually just one sixth of all the important ingredients of  effective learning, but too often highlighted as the only measurement of education excellence.

This all, among other topics, are discussed in my new book: Choosing How to Teach & Teaching How to Choose: Using the 3Cs to Improve Learning. It is already available on Amazon  and Barnes & Noble. Of course they are the same things I will be sharing in the AERO conference  in Portland, OR, August 1-5, 2012, where Sir Ken Robinson is one of the keynote speakers. I am quite excited!! 🙂

8 Responses to “Effective learning – what are the ingredients?”

  1. DrEMiller July 20, 2012 at 10:05 am #

    Reblogged this on Eleanore's Ramblings….

    • Nina July 21, 2012 at 4:23 pm #

      Thank you for sharing 🙂

  2. Huw Humphreys July 20, 2012 at 10:07 pm #

    Nina, enjoy Sir Ken! I am a big fan and have been using his video material for a while with my teachers. Don’t know if I will get time to read your book – looks great – but am adding your blog to my links and will do a post directing my readers to have a look. We have great respect for the research-based ethos that leads to deep learning in Finnish education. The trouble in the UK is creating the time and intellectual space for teachers to think the same way. Your blog goes some way to helping that. Thanks!

    • Nina July 21, 2012 at 4:29 pm #

      Thank you for such an excellent summary and insightful notes on your blogpost! A special thank you for your very kind words 🙂 I sure wish to keep in touch in the future!

  3. ivonprefontaine July 21, 2012 at 2:55 pm #

    Nina, I am trying to read more about the Finnish system. I had the opportunity to hear Pasi Sahlberg and was impressed with his caution: What is done in Finland works there. Borrow what works for you. Many of the things he spoke of and Andy Hargreaves has shared are impressive beginning with the holistic aspects and the community nature of their schools. We have examples of that in Canada and the US i.e. James Comer and Deb Meier come to mind. Our little school was a great little example of holistic education and a community based approach.

    Take care,


    • Nina July 21, 2012 at 4:42 pm #

      Ivon, thank you for your thoughtful comment. Pasi Sahlberg has indeed a good message: Finnish education system cannot (and probably should not) be replicated anywhere just as it is. That would be very unwise, because each culture is different, and thus requires an individual solution. Otherwise we – or any other educationalist – would not be any better than those who try to force “one size fits all” solutions for schools, districts or educational cultures.

      I have hard time imagining other cultures to start offering 9 months long paid maternity leave, or approach child care as the subjective right of each individual child – even though these are seen as important parts of Finnish educational culture. Yet, there is much to borrow, like paying more attention to learning than teaching, but it must be done in a very mindful way.


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