Children today are growing up in a rapidly changing world. Learning to learn helps them to keep up with these changes, face new challenges and become active citizens. Moreover, it also facilitates the process of becoming a lifelong learner. So we decided to take a closer look at how children can learn about learning, and why it matters.
What is Learning to Learn?
Learning to learn is recognized as a key competency and has over 40 different definitions.
The Education Council of the European Parliament defines learning to learn as ‘the ability to pursue and persist in learning, to organize one’s own learning, including through effective management of time and information, both individually and in groups. It engages learners to build on prior learning and life experiences in order to use and apply knowledge and skills in a variety of contexts: at home, at work, in education and training’.
It involves –
- Being aware of your own learning process and needs
- Identifying opportunities that are available
- Ability to face challenges to learn successfully
Learning to learn enables you to draw on past learning and life experiences, and apply the knowledge and skills in different contexts. This helps you to take control of your own learning process and develop a passion for lifelong learning. It also supports you to effectively acquire skills and knowledge.
How the Learning Experience Impacts Learning to Learn
Children and adults learn best when they immerse in learning experiences that are active, engaged, meaningful, and interactive. According to extensive studies students who put their knowledge into practice immediately and ‘learn through doing’ retain content effectively. Moreover, those who engage in this type of hands-on and minds-on learning, perform better than their peers who are talked at or lectured. Therefore, the learning experience is important for all ages and a key part of learning how to learn.
The Finnish education system for instance focuses on instilling learning to learn from preschool through to university education. My own learning experience in Finland is a good example of how it helped me to develop this competence. As Master’s Degree students, we first learned how to gather credible information. Then we were encouraged to question what we learned and explore how theoretical knowledge came to life in the real world. Finally, we were directed to create new ideas and solve problems using the knowledge and experience we gathered. Moreover, continuous feedback and self-evaluation played a large part in our learning process.
This education approach enabled us to take control of our learning goals and carryout independent learning. I have 23 years of systematic education in 3 different countries, under my belt. However, the final 2.5 years of studying in Finland is when I truly felt myself evolve. It was a transforming and empowering process, which involved plenty of hard work and responsibility. In return it fueled confidence and motivation, and has enabled me to produce work I can be proud of. More importantly, I now use the skills I developed as a student to enhance my professional and everyday life.
Students learn more and better when they understand the relevance of the content to their lives. Therefore, applying the content through simulations and hands-on activities facilitates optimal student learning outcomes. This is known as ‘interactive engagement’ and it helps learners to understand the meaning of what they learn.
Our in-house pedagogical expert Olli Kammunen has an excellent example of how interactive engagement supports little children to learn effectively. While conducting a Fun Academy Teacher Training in Washington, DC in the United States, Olli got a chance to observe how a local class of preschoolers was taught. The children sat on the floor facing the teacher, who wrote on the whiteboard, talked to the students and showed them different colors, numbers and shapes.
However, when it was Olli’s turn he sat on the floor with the children, and used toys and other objects available in the class to create a dialogue. He asked them to “pass the red bus”, “how many wheels does this red bus have?” and “do you know what shape the tires of this bus are?”
Soon the children were playing with different toys, observing colors and shapes, as well as counting different features on each toy. Within 15 minutes Olli was able to help the children learn the content planned for the lesson in an effective and seamless way. When done well interactive engagement supports learning to learn, by enabling learners to make sense of the content they accumulate.
Learning to Learn through Theme Based Playful Learning
Studies also show children to learn more effectively when content is presented within a theme as opposed to independently. This means curricular subjects such as Mathematics, Science and Art are not taught as standalone units. Instead they are first integrated into activities that also promote broader skills such as collaboration and problem solving. Following which, these activities are all embedded within a unique and exciting theme. The theme could be anything from ‘Space Travel’ to ‘Planning a Birthday Party’.
A wonderful example of theme based playful learning was the ‘Pet Clinic’ set up by the Finnish Red Cross at the World Village Festival in Helsinki, last May. Children were asked to bring their toy pet for a checkup at the pop-up clinic. Proud little owners of some really interesting ‘pets’, from multicolored dogs to bright pink penguins, visited the clinic all day. They went from station to station acquiring new knowledge and skills while having fun.
- Spelling out own name and the pet’s name to the Veterinarian to help fill out the information form.
- Weighing the pet, and learning how to use an electronic scale and read the numbers.
- Explaining what is wrong with the pet.
- Checking the temperature of the pet using a thermometer.
- Comforting the pet as it is given medicine, a shot and a plaster.
- Learning about after care the pet will need at home.
As a result under the theme of ‘Taking your pet to the Vet’ the kids learned counting, the concepts of weight and temperature, spelling and new vocabulary.
Furthermore, they discovered the profession of a Veterinarian, how to care for animals and the Red Cross Organization. Moreover, they enhanced their skills in communication, critical thinking and responsibility.
Future of Learning
Science of learning shows us over and over again that children learn best when the content and the context is connected, and meaningful. This helps children to identify their own interests and strengths, and pursue knowledge and skills to become the best versions of themselves. Learning to learn fuels the passion for learning and empowers learners to face the challenges of tomorrow. It gives teachers the autonomy to exercise their creativity to support students in an effective and personalized way. Most importantly it makes learning and teaching fun, exciting and something you look forward to.
Find out more about Learning to Learn, and discover how to help your little one develop key Life Skills.