Change: Learning isn’t Easy


Image: Complicated Communication With Young Men of Tal Afar, Weeks After ISIS Retreat from Their City

From online yoga to peacebuilding in war torn communities, and more recently, advice on ‘how to live with the threat of Covid 19’. The world is full of people trying to reach and teach others something that they feel is important.

And yet how many have given thought to the activity of leaning?

Throughout my career, I have hear colleagues vent frustrations, “they aren’t getting it!”, “they don’t seem to be learning” and “we told them several times and still they don’t get lesson” and comments go on …… From peacebuilding initiatives to studios academics teaching architectural students the frustrations are familiar…

Comment on the subject …..Firstly, I feel its important I explain, there is no, ‘us and them’ only we – teaching and learning is cyclical and please don’t see yourselves as above your audience, you have information and its you responsibility to communicate it in a manner that all can engage with– don’t hide behind contrived vocabulary, don’t rush or judge, be patient and learn your audience and the styles of learning needed - open yourself to the task of communication and remember you can’t reach everyone.

Most rewarding:

Take some time to read and reflect upon yourself and your characteristics from an intellectual perspective. If you felt frustrated or disillusioned at times or perhaps felt underappreciated, then perhaps it's because you’re learning style or learning approach wasn’t met. Therefore, take time to understand yourself a little better first (after all you are no different from those your communicating with). If you feel it's appropriate discuss it with your colleague’s tailor your activities with added confidence in the knowledge that you are in control of you own specific learning approach.

What kind of learner are you?

..........Are you one or a mixture of:

An Activist

Activists appreciate novelty, will 'try anything once'. When given a task of learning, you will throw yourself wholeheartedly into the work. You will like to get on with things but are not so interested in planning what needs to be done or what you are about to do. You will most likely be living life very much in the present. The activist gets fed up with repetition and processes which appear to be going over old ground. Activists tend to be stimulating, vital. open-minded and gregarious.

A Reflector

Reflectors like to 'look before you leap' you might like to collect information and sift through it. You are cautious, thorough learners. You will prefer to observe rather than take the lead. You might be slow to make up your mind but when you do, your decisions are very soundly based - not only bases on your own knowledge and opinions but also structured on what you have learnt from observing and listening to others. You might feel or appear quiet in groups, however this is more related to your 'Olympian detachment' rather than from any insecurities.

A Theorist

Theorists occupy the world of ideas, you might have tidy, organised minds. You're not content until you got to the bottom of things and explained your observations in terms of fundamental principles. You need to know the logic behind actions and observations. You may dislike subjective, ambiguity and others which take actions which are not underpin by a logical or theoretical structure. If a tutor uses data to support their opinion, it is most likely, you, theorist learner, who will ask about the validity of the data.

A Pragmatist

Pragmatists, like the theorist learner is equally interested in ideas, but you want to try them out to see if they work. You are often less interested in developing the idea itself but will happily beg borrow or steal those you think will facilitate your actions more effectively. You will certainly enjoy experimentation but won't be too interested in drawn out analysis of the results which would appeal to the 'reflector type' learners. You most likely take the opinion that if it works then it works, if it doesn't work, then there seems no point in wasting precious time wondering why. You will probably spend the time looking for an alternative solution with more promising aspects and give that a go. You love solving Problems!!

Moreover, are you a Serialist or Holist:

The Serialist's approach to learning in a systematic and linear one, breaking down the learning task into bite size 'sub-tasks' combining them later to achieve the task's main objective. You might work in a general pattern such as:

  1. You might work systematically, one step at a time

  2. Focus on particular aspects of the brief

  3. Look at details and data evidence

  4. You may filter images and data, as too many will frustrate and confuse your process

  5. You may need to take ownership of your project rather than just accepting the explanation offered by others

  6. You probably enjoy a tightly scheduled and rigorous teaching style

The Holist's approach is in complete contrast to the above approach as you will work best tackling a task in its entirety, right from the very start of the project. You might work in a general pattern of:

  1. You may work impulsively according to mood, interest and inspiration

  2. You may look at the whole picture first

  3. Your focus will be on broader issues of context and programme

  4. You will really enjoy images, precedents, theories and comments, 'more the merrier'

  5. You will then probably enjoy giving the evidence your own interpretations

  6. In terms of teaching you will perhaps enjoy a more freer tutoring style

**Just remember you will need to embrace both approaches to successfully approach a project and deliver an appropriate and rich learning solution. Problem solving calls for a combination of both approaches so know your strengths and work on your weaknesses before assuming others will**

Finally, there are three fundamental approaches to learning which are known as DEEP, SURFACE & STATEGIC, you most likely already have invested in some or all approaches from school or higher education. The approach criteria are something like this:

The Deep approach is all about you taking ownership of the task [Learning as Understanding] making your own sense of your learning and its outcomes. The other key aspect to deep learning is that you reflect on your learning and appreciate the personal changes it made, and the academic journey taken [Learning as personal development]

The Surface approach is all about learning as a typical process or your traditional perception of education. Surface is often referred to as passive [sit back and absorb] a method of filling the learner as if like an empty vessel [Learning as getting more knowledge]. Another surface type learning approach is memorising the subject content, it's a little more active and requires subject matter to be retained and understood.[Learning as memorising] Finally there is the aspect of learning which require an understanding of not just the facts given by the tutors but the methods and theories too[Learning as acquiring facts, procedures and skills]

The Strategic approach is all about achievement and is driven by higher grades based of feedback and criteria and weighting of material to be learnt. You approach learning intending to gain the highest possible grades, You will be focused of time and effort and making the most of these to their maximum effect. If you feel that this is the approach you most suit the chances are you are a mature student. You will already have a efficient, well-organised and manageable study method or two.

I hope the information in the text above is useful and goes a little way to making your communication more accessible and productive. It is probably good practice to work on those weaker aspects within your own learning portfolio before inspiring others to learn....FMH

F.M.H..... MLitt Peace & Conflict, Msc Architectural Conservation BA (Hons) Int. Architecture; MCSD, PgC TLHE
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