What is learning for you?

The Primer - The Greek Alphabet Book

The Greek Primer, 1955-1978,
The longest standing Primer of the 1st Grade of the Greek Primary School. It has been characterised as the “Primer of the Primers”

The above image represents the first school years of many generations of Primary School children in Greece, myself included. This book was the one we loved most, and even now after so many years it brings many memories to mind; from the characteristically blue school uniform to the long-gone polytonic Greek language (katharevousa, Greek: Καθαρεύουσα, [kaθaˈrevusa]). Most of all, it brings to mind my first steps into learning!

When George Roberts opened the pre–course activities of the “first steps in learning and Teaching in Higher Education” MOOC by asking us “what is learning for you?”, my mind travelled through time for a moment.  To my surprise, although I consider myself as a passionate learner, my job role is “Learning Support Adviser” and yet I had never questioned its meaning before because I was taking it for granted.

Having thought about it a bit, I decided that learning for me is about going beyond memorising facts and bullet points.

It’s about:

  • The “bright-bulb” moment or as Alan, a fellow MOOCer, described, the “aha” moment. This is the moment when a new meaning reaches my heart and becomes part of me.
  • Learning is about making sense, and reaching a new state of understanding. George mentioned in the podcast that learning can be a “product”. If I don’t understand something then I can’t “produce” and hence not learn. (At least I perceive it as such).
  • Learning is an active process in which reflection is the core.
  • Learning is making connections in order for me to reach new knowledge or a new truth.
  • Learning is leaving my “ego” aside, and acknowledging the limits of what I do and don’t know.
  • Finally, learning is an endless affair. The love of learning is my signature strength and my decisions are influenced by the opportunities of learning on offer.

New meanings

Having said that, or rather, having written the aforementioned in the Moodle forum, I decided to start reading the threads of my fellow MOOCers.

Master Learner (SMART)

Master Learner (SMART)

Many participants had engaged into a full-blown discussion about the concept of learning while blending their experiences with theory, pointing to papers, sources, and models and giving sound examples to explain the labyrinth of learning.

There were and still are two major “aha moments” that struck me;

  • The first was Jack Mezirow’s work on transformative learning. I was not aware of his writings and after a quick checking I found a chapter on “How Critical Reflection triggers Transformative Learning”, referring to adult learners.

Merizow’s chapter opened a new door to my understanding and generated so many ideas and “train of thoughts” that I needed to step back after the first two paragraphs.

My students are adult learners and I feel I have a deep understanding on the main characteristics of mature learners. Merizow’s “Meaning Perspectives” generated many questions in mind about my students’ expectations. These are not defined by the new “fees-era” but by their prior assumptions on how they should study for the University, how teaching might be, how they express themselves, etc.

These thoughts made me to realise that learning support through the lens of Information literacy is vital to address these predispositions linked to:

    • The way they have been taught many years ago
    • The interpretations they give in relations such as teacher-student or lecturer-student, etc
    • Their sociocultural background with their respective belief systems
    • The stereotypes formed in their minds (e.g. what is a librarian, what is in the library etc)
  • The second important “bright moment” occurred when Marion Waite “threw on the table” the “threshold concepts”.

I started reading Glynis Cousin’s article and try to grasp her points, and mainly I tried to make connections with Information Literacy. I realised how impossible it is to address all the threshold concepts across all disciplines when you need to support students across all subjects, and enable them to become information literate citizens.

I need to think deeper whether the first pillar of the Sconul model for Information literacy related to “Recognise my information need”, is just so difficult to achieve because of the potential “threshold concepts” of one’s discipline.

I mean, how can someone recognise lack of information in a subject area when they struggle with the subject area itself?  What information and what for?

All librarians share the same anxiety that our students do not properly engage with information because they can’t see the connection with their context of study.

Then again, if only a part of the subject occurs to be a threshold concept, will a student be able to recognise their need for information?

As instructors in your own disciplines, would you need the librarian’s input to help you overcome threshold concepts with your class?

Further Resources:

  1.  Cousin, G. 2010 Neither teacher-centred nor student-centred: threshold concepts and research partnerships, Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education, Issue 2: February 2010. Available from http://www.aldinhe.ac.uk/ojs/index.php?journal=jldhe&page=article&op=viewFile&path[]=64&path[]=41  [Accessed 18 May 2012]
  2. Meyer, Jan, and Ray Land. 2003. Threshold Concepts and Troublesome Knowledge: Linkages to Ways of Thinking and Practising Within the Disciplines (Universities of Edinburgh, Coventry and Durham). Edinburgh: Universities of Edinburgh, Coventry and Durham. Available from http://www.etl.tla.ed.ac.uk//docs/ETLreport4.pdf  (Accessed 20 May 2012)
  3. Mezirow, J. 1990. How Critical Reflection triggers Transformative Learning In:  Mezirow, J. & Associates, ed. 1990. Fostering Critical Reflection in Adulthood: A Guide to Transformative and Emancipatory Learning. J San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers, p.214-216. Available from http://www.loc.gov/catdir/description/wiley035/89039667.html. [Accessed 18 May 2012]

 Image credits:

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3 Responses to What is learning for you?

  1. Nice reflection. I particularly like the scholarly aspects blended with the affective aspects. Really useful references.

  2. Pingback: #fslt12 Yikes! « Cathy Wint Blog | ESOL | Teacher training

  3. Pingback: First Steps into Learning & Teaching in Higher Education: 21 May – 22 June ’12 « Cathy Wint Blog | ESOL | Teacher training

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