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Learning how to learn
Learning how to learn

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2.3 Your learning history

Activity 3

You do not need to explore this in detail - just pause for a moment and think about:

  • one good (enjoyable and effective) learning experience
  • one experience that was perhaps less effective and enjoyable.

Then ask yourself why the first was more effective and why the second was not.


Here is Tim's response:

A good, enjoyable learning experience

I can think of a number of things. One of the first enjoyable experiences was starting to use a computer back in 1988. PCs were very new then and there wasn't really much help available, nor was there much in the way of software. I just switched it on and had a go. Basically, I learned by doing it, even if I made mistakes. Each time I switched it on, I discovered something new. There was no pressure and I could learn at my own pace.

Not so enjoyable

Recently, I registered for a programming course at my local college but I found it really difficult to concentrate in the evenings. Although a lot of it was hands on, we had to attend some lectures as well - I completely lost my way on several occasions and almost fell asleep!

It's been really helpful to write all this down. It seems that I do find it difficult to learn if I can't work at my own pace. Also, I like to be doing things - I'm not very good at just listening, especially when I'm feeling tired after a long day at work. Another thing is that I hate being made to feel stupid - I think that's linked to a lack of confidence because I always assume that other people are better at things than I am.

Again your individual responses may be different to those of other students; do compare your responses if you have an opportunity to do so. Try to analyse what affected your learning experiences - what did work well for you and why? Then consider what did not work well for you - what made those specific learning experiences unsuccessful?

Sue's response was different:

Good experience

  • Last year, an assignment on memory because subject matter interesting. Fascinating. Wanted to know more. Actually enjoyed it! Did well.

Bad experience

  • A question on Freud because subject matter difficult, not really my scene but chose it to try to understand it. Didn't enjoy it. A real struggle. Poor mark but tutor comments now seem helpful.

You may have found that there is a link between your responses to Activities 2 and 3. Your current motives for studying may link to your earlier learning experiences - such as now wanting to study in depth some subject you remember enjoying but had to give up. Or maybe you looked at some maths materials that a friend, family member or colleague was studying and thought, ‘This is much more interesting than the maths I did at school - I could do this!’

Whatever your responses to these two activities, it is likely that you will have some emotional feelings about why you remembered and recorded them. Emotions and feelings are often part of our learning. We all have a learning history that has both positive and negative experiences. Maybe the reason your learning did not go too well was nothing to do with the topic or the activity, but simply that - like Tim - you had had a difficult day and found it impossible to concentrate. All learning has an affective component (to do with feelings) as well as a cognitive one (to do with thinking). Recognising this - and resolving any tensions in our feelings about learning - is an important part of learning how to learn.