1.3 Learning through activities
The course has been designed to actively involve you in your own learning. One of the most important aspects of this are the activities that you are asked to do.
For each activity, there is a suggested time, for example, ‘Allow about 10 minutes for this activity’. These estimates are intended to give you a sense of the amount of effort required. However, you may find that you spend longer on each activity. That is fine, so long as you feel you are learning. If you come across ideas that you have encountered before, you may work through the activities more quickly. Effective learning does not have to take hours at a stretch; in fact, trying to concentrate for too long can be less efficient as you become tired. You are the only one who can tell what works best for you. At first, it may be worth noting the actual time spent on each task, so you can decide whether to change the way you study.
Once you have done an activity, read the comment that follows. These comments aim to highlight what we think may be important. But, again, do not be too worried if your ideas differ. Your own viewpoint may produce ideas that we have not thought of or included.
Probably the best way to see how activities work is to have a go at one right now. This activity takes you back to the three stories at the start of this section.
Activity 1 What can Karen, Levene and Shehnaz tell us about learning?
The experiences of these three people are shown in the Case Studies videos below. Watch each video now to see what Karen, Levene and Shehnaz have to say about their experience of learning.
Think about what each person’s story says about their learning.
Karen seems to have been very unprepared for the work she started when she left school. She had no qualifications and she also struggled to do her job because she had not learned the alphabet. However, once at work she learned very quickly. She was able to make use of communication skills she had learned by explaining to her boss what she was doing.
Levene seems to feel that his qualifications were not very special. On the other hand, he has been able to draw on previous experience and has been able to use this to explore new learning. Perhaps you got the impression that he would rather be talking about the successful learning he has done since leaving school.
Shehnaz also talks about learning in terms of qualifications – both those she was able to do (her GCSEs) and those that she did not finish (her A levels). Shehnaz tells us that she has looked after her mother-in-law when she was ill, has married, has had children, and has lived in America. Did you wonder what Shehnaz might have learned as a result of these experiences? She may well have learned far more from these experiences than from her GCSE courses.
If your responses were different from these comments then you may think that you have given the ‘wrong’ answers. In this course there are few, if any, ‘wrong answers’. For each activity there is a range of possible answers. The key here is to ask yourself whether the answers that you have given help to develop your understanding.
Karen, Levene and Shehnaz all seem to suggest that learning can happen in many different situations including work and family life. Some aspects of adult learning seem to occur because there is a need or desire to learn. Karen’s way of coping with the filing is an example of this. At other times, learning may happen anyway, with little control over it. Shehnaz having to look after her mother-in-law might have led to this type of learning. But Karen did not learn to file as a result of being taught by someone. In the same way Shehnaz was not taught by an ‘expert’ about how to look after her mother-in-law or her children. Much of their learning has not happened as a result of being told things by someone like a teacher; it has occurred as a result of the ways that they have responded to experience.
This is a very important point about the way that we see learning in this course. We do not think of students as being like an empty container that someone else fills up with their superior knowledge. The learning we receive at school can seem like this. This type of learning is often associated with exam qualifications. This sort of learning can make learners feel that they have very little to offer and what they have learned in their own lives counts for very little. This barrier to involvement in learning may have been overcome by Karen, Levene and Shehnaz, but it remains a formidable one to many other people.
As you work through the course you will find that there are many other activities that ask you to stop reading. Generally, this will involve you writing down your thoughts about some aspect of the text or video material.
Your study on Learning to change does not just mean that you have to read (or watch) the course materials and do the activities. There are other important aspects to studying, such as being organised to study. This includes working out where you are going to study and when you will find the time for your studies. It is also helpful to think about how you are going to organise the notes that you make as you study.
The next section focuses on the different ways in which the word ‘skills’ is used in this course.