Module 2 - Learning Principles


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There are some basic principles, which if applied to your own learning or learning you are facilitating, will increase learning effectiveness. Collectively, I call these principles 'The Seven Secrets of Successful Learning'.


1. Put the emphasis on learning

Put the emphasis on learning rather than teaching or being taught. This encourages learners to take an active, rather than a passive role in their learning resulting in quicker development of skills and knowledge which should be retained for longer.


2. Know what you need to learn

Learning is more efficient and better directed if you have a clear idea of what you should know, or be able to do, when you have completed the learning experience.


In formal learning, statements of these outcomes are called objectives and are presented to the learner at the beginning of the learning experience. Our learning resource on Writing Behavioural Objectives gives more information on this subject.


3. Learn what you need to know, when you need to know it

Learning which has an immediate, beneficial application is far more effective than seemingly irrelevant learning. Aim, if possible, to learn at the point of need.


4. Walk before you can run

Make sure you are competent at one level...

before proceeding to the next. This provides a sound basis for future learning.


5. Learn logically

Learning can be greatly assisted by having a logical flow that goes from:


6. Check you have learnt what you need to know

This doesn't mean that you have to take a test, but it makes sense to check that you have learnt what you set out to learn so that you can see whether your learning has been effective. In formal learning events, the minimum requirement would be to observe, either directly or indirectly, whether the required learning has been achieved. Only check your learning when you are ready. In some circumstances, to do otherwise could be both foolhardy and dangerous.

7. Expect success

Expectation is one of the strongest motivators. Obviously, you should not express false expectations, but the power of expectation is clearly demonstrated in the fable of 'The Mouse and Henry Carson':

The Mouse and Henry Carson

One evening deep in June, mid-summer to be exact, a mouse ran into the office of the Educational Testing Service, and accidentally triggered a delicate point in the apparatus just as the College Entrance Examination Board's data on Henry Carson was being scored. Henry was an average secondary school pupil, uncertain of himself and of his talents. Without the mouse, Henry's scores would have been average or below, but the mouse changed all that and the computer obligingly produced amazingly high scores in both verbal and quantitative areas.

Henry's extraordinary abilities were soon known throughout the school. His teachers looked at him in a new light, wondering how they could have underestimated his ability. Counsellors were puzzled at how they had missed his obvious talent, and college administrators vied with one another to win Henry for their colleges. For Henry, the world changed and he grew as a person and as a student. For the first time he recognised his potentialities, and gained in confidence, beginning 'to put his mind in the way of great things'. So was born one of the best men of his generation.

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