Learning how to learn

In recent years I have come to realize that perhaps the most important thing one can get out of an undergraduate education is learning how to learn. That’s understandably a hard thing to communicate with students who are bogged down in course material, choosing their majors and working hard to learn what is needed for a particular subject or career path.

But career professionals always stress that changing careers is increasingly common, and one should not assume that they can stay in one career path for life. Switching careers or upgrading skills will be much easier for those that know how to learn.

Additionally, students today have a wealth of information at their fingertips. The challenge becomes, as Hargreaves (2000) puts it, “to access, select and evaluate knowledge in an information soaked world”. Students no longer need to depend on instructors to impart knowledge; they can even take free online courses from major universities. Perhaps our role as instructors needs to shift away from transfer of knowledge, toward filtering, synthesizing, applying that knowledge.

If this is the case, teaching should focus more on self-directed learning, higher-order thinking skills (HOTS- see Bloom’s taxonomy) and critical thinking. These skills better help students know how to use the information they can so readily access; in short, learning how to learn.

References:

Hargreaves, D. (2000). Knowledge Management in the Learning Society. Paris: OECD Publishing.

 

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