What’s your learning style?
Ok, first of all, an apology. Although I started back on my Sunday blogging routine there was, and I hope you noticed, no waffle last Sunday. This was because I was poorly and couldn’t get out of bed until the late afternoon. I hope you were not too disappointed to tune in and find that there was nothing new. And, while we are on the topic of being disappointed there are going to be some changes with this blog that I feel I need to do in order to continue to make things work. Hope you don’t all get cross with me…
I’m not sure if you are aware, but this blog is only part of the ‘internet’ stuff that I actually do throughout the week. Currently I am finding it difficult to keep every single blog, channel, station going. Well I can do it, but then I suddenly get burn out, both creative and tiredness, and find that I just want to stop. In order to keep everything going I thought that I would cut back a bit. What this means for this blog is that I will only be posting once every two weeks, with my personal blog getting a waffle in the week inbetween. So you still get a blog post every week but one is less professional than the other one – what do you mean – this is not a professional waffle! It also lets you have two weeks to keep up to date – so really I am thinking about you guys.
Anyway – I most stop starting sentences like that – onto the topic of this week’s waffle. As a new semester starts at university and people have restarted their nagging – ooops encouragement for me to start a PhD/EdD it got me thinking about learning and how it changes from say A levels to higher education. I have to place a proviso on this waffle since I am coming from my own personal perspective and experience and it might be that things have changed. In order to fit the discussion into the usual three point format, I wanted to say what I think it is important to have in your mind when you are starting to learn at university and how these support me and my learning.
Independent Learning – For many years throughout my education I felt that I was being driven through subjects on a set course and, if I did deviate at all, then the educational SATNAV would engage and tell me to take a ‘U’ turn and return to the syllabus. As we enter higher education, although there are learning outcomes to address and assignments to write, it is possible for the learner to engage in more independent study. When I say this, I’m not necessarily saying that we should all sit in the darkened corner of the library and make notes from a range of dusty leather bound books. I mean that we can chose which topics we actually take an interest in and delve further into. Even though I am a tutor – yes I am a tutor – I always find people who know more about a topic than me and as long as I ensure they are not busy, they are always willing to discuss what they know and even challenge my thinking and thoughts. It is definitely the case that we have ownership over our own learning and, although some people actually want to be told what to read and what to write, it is important that we start to develop our own interests and, in danger of sounding like an over protective parent, take responsibility for these things.
“..I can sometimes even hear the few brain cells complaining and straining under the stress!..”
Encourage Curiosity – I am frequently jealous of people who know more than me. I’m not just referring to people who know more about the area in which I teach, I am talking about knowing more about absolutely everything. They seem to know about cars and sport and sound production and music. Although some people are very specialised in their knowledge there are those people who appear that they know everything about anything – e.g. Stephen Fry! I am very curious. I have recognised that for some time and I always want to learn more and develop my understanding of things to an extent that I often have to recognise that I have neither the ability or the time to achieve this. Considering my curiosity from this perspective might infer that it is a negative, however it is probably something that I would never want to lose from my armament of learning skills. In order to increase our knowledge of things I think we need to be curious. We need to consider points, ask questions about frameworks, challenge concepts and even just think, does that actually work. I once had a supply teacher who said that they would never work with my class a second time – why? – because they asked too many questions. It was an environment which I created and encouraged within my classroom and, if the supply teacher thought it was wrong then quite frankly I didn’t want her teaching my class again. So get curious about things – take time to consider, reflect and challenge because all of these will definitely impact on how your learning progresses.
Motivated for that sticker! – I once asked a group of students why they were at university. I’m always telling practitioners to expect the unexpected and I think in hindsight it was a brave and yet foolish question to ask, why? because the answer I got was not actually the one that I wanted. When I left primary school teaching to work in higher education, I wanted to become an academic. I wanted to be delivering conference talks, mingling with the brainy people of teaching and learning, writing books and completing and publishing research. I had this almost un-quenchable thirst to learn and achieve. I mentioned before that I am curious but I also have this need to learn. I can’t actually think of a time that I wasn’t actually trying to force new knowledge and understanding into my tiny brain. I can sometimes even hear the few brain cells complaining and straining under the stress! To me you need to have that intrinsic motivation to actually learn. You need to be in higher education, studying a degree because you want to learn more. Not because your parents think it is a good idea, not because it gives you a degree but because you are motivated to learn. I understand that sometimes early morning or late night lectures might be hard work, but this is when that motivation kicks in and you end up finding both the energy and concentration to engage and learn. Believe me, I’m not a fan of 9am or 6pm sessions either, but it is my motivation to teach that gives me that extra adrenaline to hopefully be dynamic, interesting and informative. Oh – it might also be the third coffee of the morning!
I read this waffle back and found that I have made it very personal, using the pronoun ‘I’ a lot. I usually try to make this waffles less personal and more – well – impersonal, but I guess it is taking me a while to get back into the swing of things. I not sure why you are still in education and/or learning but I think for me I am still here because I am independent with respect to my learning, motivated to learn and intensely curious. With these three basic characteristics I think that anyone will be able to engage and enjoy learning not only in higher education but in every stage of education or even life. Next time, I want to waffle about resilience…so make sure you come back!
I look forward to hearing your comments and ideas, please add them in the comments below or send them to me via Twitter(@iwilsonysj), Facebook, Google+ or email.
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Have fun and I’ll catch you later and, until then, consider yourself waffled!