When thinking about learning, I usually connect learning to be some kind of a process (recurring event), which enables the learner to acquire a new skill, whether it is a mental skill or a certain task. There are many definitions for learning and they even go deep into neuropsychology depending on the definition.
For me, the key issue in learning especially in vocational education is in trying to find (or show) the connection between what to learn with how to learn. If someone has to learn e.g. mathematics, the how is usually by calculating or memorizing the calculation formulas. Or if someone has to learn the basics of computer databases, how is usually first realizing the concept as a whole, and then getting deeper into the structures of databases, and later creating the database itself and start inserting data into it, etc. By using this what & how –concept, the “what” of learning for me seems to be this aforementioned adoption of a skill, and the how seems to be in acquiring the needed information from most suitable or relevant source, and to refine the information to be actual skill.
For my current field of profession, there is a myriad of varying learning methods, and some may work better for one person than other methods. I recently had to learn bunch of new skills when I began working to my current employer, and some methods worked better for me than others, such as a colleague instructing first how to do a certain configuration to a network device, and later repeating the same procedure by yourself following a self-made instructions, which were done during the first session. In most cases finding the best working way in terms of personal preference, facilitates the learning process and motivation.
Yesterday my 8-year old son had homework from school that he had to memorize a short poem. It took few hours altogether for me to try to help him memorizing the poem, and during that time we had to try to change the teaching “style” few times.
First we tried to do it in a way, that he had to read the poem himself out loud, and trying to repeat it after reading it couple of times. The first method was a total disaster, and it end up him being upset and frustrated about few difficult words, such as “lettubaari” and “sangen” (you can translate those if you want). It also felt, that while he was reading the poem, he was acting like a loudspeaker, and he wasn’t paying any attention to the meaning of words or the story of the poem.
Second method was that I divided the poem into three separate parts of two lines each, and he had to read those smaller parts of the poem and trying to learn them without any help – first, one part of the poem well enough, and then moving to second part, and so on. That method was not that successful either, as it felt like he forgot the previous part of the poem while trying to memorise the second part.
Third method was that I took the book instead of him, and told him to repeat the lines of the poem after me. After repeating the lines well enough, we combined the lines to rhyme with next lines of the poem, and they constructed these three separate parts of the poem. And as those separate parts of the poem rhymed, it helped him to understand and to memorise the words better, in addition we had little bit of rhythm with each lines of the poem, and it made repeating the lines of the poem more fun comparing to repeating the lines without any rhythm at all.
Our neighbours’ six-year old son was also listening because he came to ask my son to play out with him, and he started laughing to our poem-learning / reading session. But nonetheless, the third method was the most successful one, and probably because with that “method” I was most involved with, and maybe he needed that motivational boost or encouraging words from a parent. Or maybe he wasn’t ready for memorising the written text, because he had to really concentrate on reading the words right.
I feel, that same type of balancing between learning and teaching methods is everyday issue in the educational field, and of course in vocational education. Building the motivation for the learner by trying out new learning methods, or activating the learner by smaller tasks, and also having a healthy amount of creativity makes it easier for learners to gain the information and learning new skills.