Making Learning Sticks in my Learners’ Minds

learning.jpgYesterday evening was the end of my week 3 teaching on the course that took me months to develop. I started reminding many of my learners to blog about their learning and highlighted to them that research has shown that the earlier you reflect after an experience/learning moment, the higher the chance that that experience/learning moment gets into your long term memory.

I will lead by example in doing so.

After three weeks of trying hard in class to help learners acquire the skills and knowledge needed to become a good systems modeller or at least what I believe a good modeller should have, I come to a conclusion that I have not been very effective in doing so. An extensive exercise we did in class to help learners gain a deeper knowledge on all the modelling steps and the following-up modelling exercises didn’t work as well as I have wished for, the analysis of the impromptu test results supported my assertion.

Some learners did show some signs of improvement, but many are still struggling. Since this is a senior seminar, I have expected that learners’ foundation in casual loop diagram constructions to be reasonably strong. But I was surprised in some cases the common mistakes were still unfortunately commonly made in class. I wonder what can be the possible cause. More importantly, I ask myself what can I do as a teacher to lift their foundation to the next level and make all their learning sticks into their long-term memories.

I believe the answer to this question may lie with deriving ways to help learners see and appreciate the value of constantly reflecting and documenting their learning and getting them to really do so as a habit. Yet, the participation rate of the learning blog that I have set up for this purpose is not high. I think I have probably failed again in motivating my learners. A learner, Ian, reminded me yesterday that as school works get heavier through the semester, many learners may find it increasingly challenging to take time to reflect and document their experiences. While I believe assigning marks to such blogging activities will induce the learners to do this eventually, I am also acutely aware that I shouldn’t make this as an exercise that focuses on getting the marks.

Reflection is beyond marks. It has so much value in life that personally I think it should be a subject that is being taught when we are young so that it gets imbued into our DNA. Sadly, it is not. Ian further suggested that one way to help everyone find time to reflect and document is to use 10 minutes of the class time to do so. I thought for a moment and realized that this may be a good idea. After all, a classroom is a place for learning and learning will always involve some form of reflections. So I am going to adopt Ian’s idea going forward.

I always like such interactions with learners. In most of these cases, I often find myself become a learner and the learner become my teacher.

This short session with Ian makes me realizes that I have much to learn as a teacher. For now, I will continue to work hard on my journey for this course, thinking about every possible ways to help my learners gain awareness of this out of sight out of mind problem on food security/food waste in Singapore and to help them apply their systems thinking capabilities to do something meaningful for themselves and for the society at large.

Jenson Goh



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  1. Wise decision to try Ian’s idea – listening to students is something that more teachers should do.

    • The intent of listening is to make sure that learners construct and express their views. The very act of constructing the message and expressing it, deepen their learning and enhance their understanding of the subject matter. Not to mention that teacher builds trust with learners which is fundamental in all form of education.

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