Friday, September 13, 2013

This is How We Learn Best

Earlier this week, I gave my students a survey to find out how they feel they learn best. I did this in an effort to provide them with resources that they would find useful while learning independently - there's no use in giving them lots of video links if no one likes learning from videos.

I gave the students a number of resource types, and asked them to rank the types from 1 ("I would never use this to learn") to 5 ("I would always use this to learn").

Here is how the students ranked the resource types, in order of average answer across all the surveys.

1. Teacher lecture (to a small group of students): 4.5

2. Group activities: 4.2
3. One-to-one help from a teacher or tutor: 4.1
4. Teacher lecture (to the whole class): 3.8
5. Worksheet, with explanations on the sheet: 3.8
6. Textbook (examples and questions): 3.6
7. Video: 3.5
8. Peer-to-peer: 3.3
9. Real life applications (rich learning tasks): 3.2
10. Pre-made lessons (ie. e-learning): 2.9
11. Online research (find-your-own answers): 2.8
12. Online tutorial (ie. live chat): 2.7

I found it interesting to note that three of the top four options rely heavily on the teacher. Not terribly surprising, since this is what most of their previous experience in education would have entailed.

It was also interesting to note that three of the bottom four options, while mostly very different from what the students would have experienced previously in school, are pretty much how all real-life learning is done. When there is no expert in the room, how comfortable will my students be in trying to figure things out themselves?

So herein lies the newest pedagogical issue for me: how can I give my students resources that they are comfortable with (and enjoy using - I don't want to turn them off learning!), but at the same time, push them to use resources they don't necessarily like, but will NEED as they move through life?


  1. Most students hate real life learning because it isn't cut and dried. What is the learning going on? They don't have practice taking the intuitive or gerry rigged solutions and finding the underlying principals.
    It is vitally important when doing those real life projects that you spend time decompressing and discussing the learning so that they do realize how much the learned and how it can be applied to similar but different situations.

    1. Hi Brendan,
      I agree - I find students are also afraid to take risks and try new things that they don't *know* will work the first time through. Thanks for the suggestions - we have some larger "real life" tasks coming up, and I'll try to remember to break it all down for them.