What is ‘learning’?

Today I’ve been working on the concept of learning. How can learning be defined? Is it just the acquisition of knowledge? Surely we are all learning constantly.
I would consider learning to be more of a personal development, than a journey to possess facts. Learning the skills of problem-solving, analysis, creative thinking and so on allow us to explore and develop our knowledge of a variety of subjects, not just to learn and regurgitate facts.


The concepts of ‘learning to how learning’, ‘visible learning and teaching’ and the role that character traits and their development in learning were all but foreign to me. Whilst we can easily recognise from our own experience that the more determined and contentious are more likely to do well academically, Levin’s story of the proactive acknowledgement and recording of character in a KIPP (Knowledge is Power Programme) school was such an eye-opener. The article What if the Secret to Success is Failure?where I first came across Levin’s work, also talks about Randolph’s attempt to implement a similar at the Riverdale private school in New York. It is clear that those from disadvantaged backgrounds are hungry to ‘get out’, and when a change in character is offered to them, they are keen to take full advantage, particularly when results are soon evident. By comparison, the affluent pupils at Randolph’s school have no reason to think they may not succeed; if there is no risk of failing, there is no need to change. Randolph does, however, point out that the pupils from the KIPP school, where character report cards were issued and discussed with parents and students, were better able to deal with difficult situations. They had developed self-determination and resilience, whereas the children from his own school had never been tested in hardship.

A slight digression from ‘learning’… Teachers’ learning is also obvious paramount in their pupils’ learning; this is something we probably all know, but perhaps had not fully appreciated. Teachers learning to communicate better with their pupils, and being given the resources to adapt their teaching when necessary, provides a more supportive environment for learning to take place. Pupil involvement is also highlighted as necessary in a school which aims to value all members of its community, and not just the token unimportant question that I remember being asked, but real and relevant questions about how they perceive their learning and what could make their learning experience better.

I could go on and on, but I should save some steam for my assignment…

One thing I have learnt today though, is, whilst the concepts and ideas are incredibly interesting, educational theorists don’t always do a good job of writing in an inspiring way… The best parts are usually the real-life situations!

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