How do we Learn?

I am currently taking a course at Coursera called What future for Learning and I thought I would share some reflections. Here is the first text.

How do we Learn? 

How we learn and how we teachers should support this learning for students has been in my mind for a long time. I have been a teacher at university level for 26 years and my personal teaching methods have changed a lot over the years. 

How much time should we spend on summative vs formative examination? I teach mainly advanced project courses and here a combination of both is very good. The students get assignments where they must reflect on their learning during the course, learn from each other via continuous group presentations and peer reviews of each other’s writings together with verbal presentations in the middle and the end of the course and a written report at the end. At the same time, I am often a guest lecturer in other courses and here I get asked to give the other teacher quiz questions for the final examination and I find this tough. Creating good quiz questions is hard. E.g., it should not be something the student could just easily search for on the Internet but rather be a question that triggers reflection and thought and this is something I would much rather do via a written assignment.  

One pedagogical idea is that the students should get variation in their learning. There is no template for learning that suits all, neither teachers nor students. As a teacher, I want the students to reflect on their learning and go back and see if they could have solved a task differently. 

In this first part of the course, What Future for Education the key things I take with me is how the course and assignments are set up. Already in this first week, we as students get a high variation in tasks and how the material is presented. There are videos but also transcripts if I prefer to read instead (even if the transcripts are not perfect unfortunately). There is a longer text as well as other students writing via the Paddlet and forum. All this helps me learn via variation and triggers me to reflect as the material is just not one big homogeneous mass. 

Finally, I reflect that for me personally as a student the most attractive way of learning is that I can do it anywhere thanks to “modern” tools. These days, I have a really hard time learning from books (the old, printed type) but rather, I want to have different resources with me electronically. E.g., if I am waiting somewhere, then I can take 5-10 min to read, watch or listen to something or write something in a journal (electronically of course). Learning should be possible to be done anywhere and anytime. How does this rhyme with today’s school system where students are supposed to learn a specific thing at a specific time and at a specific place? 

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