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What makes a learning experience profound? Personal reflections and possible implications for classroom practice.

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I have recently begun a Leadership Pathways journey.  As part of the first core day, we were asked to reflect on a profound learning experience. This got me thinking about how many profound learning experiences I have both been involved in, and how many I have been able to give to others.  Our group came up with a huge long list, but these are my five.

  1. Emotional
  2. Connected
  3. Demanding
  4. Reflective
  5. Collaborative

As always, these are personal thoughts and quite mixed up.  I put them here so that I can look back on them (plus they’d get lost inside my world-cup-free brain)

1. Emotional

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I can’t think of a time where deep learning hasn’t engaged my emotions.  From being awe inspired to that tingle feeling when a student gets a light bulb moment.  From this-is-the-happiest-day-ever, to I-think-I’m-about-to die. 

How often do we engage the emotions of those we teach?  Here, I would argue that having a safe learning environment is not always conducive to profound learning.  I think we sometime need to take risks. For example, doing that on-site fieldwork with that nightmare class last lesson on a Friday may lead to better learning both for you and your class?  I’m not advocating that every lesson is a white knuckle ride, but through using images, video, audio, some personal experiences or stories in class maybe learning will become deeper.  Maybe someone will leave the classroom to learn more.

2. Connected

By connected, I mean motivation.  What’s the point in learning this and what will it do for me in the future?  Maybe this can be done through effective signposting of skills and ideas in lessons, but I fear that too much learning is about passing the exam unless we connect those experiences to something else.  For example, developing confidence to give a presentation to performing well in an interview.

3. Demanding

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Content has never been so easy to get hold of.  Twitter is a constant stream of easy-to-get-hold-of resources and ideas.  However, if it’s easy to obtain, it’s just as easy to forget.  Most deep learning I have encountered was hard work.  I fear that sometimes I make learning too easy and wonder how long it stays with the class.  We should aim to make learning harder work, although that may be unpopular with the students and may mean a dip in results?

4. Reflective

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Why did I just do that? How does it link to….? Would I do it again? What can I use this experience for?

I don’t think that learning occurs in convenient 1 hour chunks, which is why the focus by Ofsted, SLT etc upon the lesson instead of the learning sequence is frustrating. We need time to reflect.

Having time to reflect upon learning is important.  How often do we really give time for reflection? Would a mind map between lots of different subjects about a topic be useful?

5. Collaborative

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Behind the two people that summited, there were two others who didn’t.  Indeed, I can’t think of any major achievement, academic or otherwise, that I would have gained without support from others.  So why do I encourage assessment of individuals?

People have different skills, so why do I encourage everyone to be an all rounder?  Collaborative is much more fun, and brings a wider skill set from different people.  Duke of Edinburgh expeditions teams all bring different skills to the mix, maybe my lessons should do the same?  You’re being assessed as part of a team.  How could we formalise that?

What factors do you think create profound learning experiences?

Comments

  1. Hi david - this is a wonderful post and I'd like to copy it and expand it on my business blog - please let me know you're okay with this (I'll reference you) - I'll put password page on to start with and let you check

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi Mike,
    I'm pleased that you enjoyed the post and am happy for you to use and expand it :-)

    David

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hi David
    As I'm sure you know many of your comments and questions are the very same as the difficult topics we are considering in Scotland in our new Curriculum for Excellence approach and I agree whole heartedly with them all. I still have a few issues with accountability however. How do parents know thier child is progressing - no matter their starting point and as you pointed out, how do we formally assess group presentations/tasks. Just because these are difficult questions for teachers to answer though, doesn't mean we shouldn't ask the questions.
    Val

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hi Val,

    Thanks for your thought provoking comment. I agree with you about assessment and accountability: that just because it's difficult doesn't mean that we shouldn't try.

    Very best wishes, and thanks for reading

    David

    ReplyDelete

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