Teachers today are encouraged to help their learners develop life competencies during each life stage of education, from pre-primary to secondary. 21st century course materials integrate opportunities to work on competencies such as communication, collaboration, creative thinking, critical thinking, social responsibilities and learning to learn. They offer the teacher a range of activities and ideas to encourage and motivate their learners to develop these competencies.
Learning to learn as a competency
Among the six main competencies Cambridge has identified in the Cambridge Life Competencies Framework is Learning to Learn. So, why is it important for our learners to develop learning to learn skills at school? How will such skills equip them for life beyond secondary school education?
When developing learning to learn competencies in the secondary classroom, we are equipping our learners with the practical skills to participate in, take control of, reflect on and evaluate their own learning in higher education and in the workplace.
Benefits of learning to learn
Students in higher education are expected to be more independent and less reliant on their tutors and to play an active role in directing their own learning. Being equipped with a variety of study skills and knowing how to use them effectively is crucial. Examples include the ability to create an effective learning environment without distractions, or being able to manage time effectively in order to stay focused and meet deadlines.
In higher education, students are fully responsible for organising the time they spend outside class to work on projects and assignments or to prepare for exams. We know from our understanding of how memory works that the human brain is able to retain and retrieve information more effectively when we review it systematically.
A university student who paces their learning, uses mind maps or graphic organisers to make clear, structured notes from their lecture notes or own reading and reviews them periodically during peak concentration levels will improve their learning outcomes far more effectively than a student who opts to spend hours cramming for an exam the night before. This “distributed practice” or spacing out study times into short, regular sessions over a long period of time will undoubtedly have a positive impact on their learning.
In addition to distributed practice, learners should aim to make the retrieval of information as useful as possible. They can do this by not only recalling the information, but applying it to answer a specific exam question, solve a certain problem or complete a particular task as part of a piece of coursework. Learners need to be able to identify and select relevant information by making connections.
Those students who have been shown how to use graphic organisers and make connections in order to organise information will be better equipped to identify which information is necessary to complete a task or answer a question and identify which further relevant information they need to source. So, it is not simply a case of regurgitating information but retrieving it in a useful way.
Students who were encouraged at school to regularly create and carry out low stakes quizzes to review course content or explain how to answer certain questions to their peers will be better able to review information effectively.
Expectations of higher education
Higher education students today are expected to know how to reflect on and evaluate their learning in order to achieve desired learning outcomes. At college or university, they will need to plan schemes of work and keep a record of the progress made. They will also be expected to carry out longer written assignments and projects and may need to work collaboratively with others in order to produce them.
Meeting expectations by learning to learn
Students who have had the opportunity to use formative assessment at school will have had invaluable experience at reflecting on their learning and becoming more involved in the learning process. They will be used to reflect on the success of their learning and identify where their learning should go next. This training will help them stay focused during projects and assignments at university as they systematically reflect on their progress at various stages of the process, identify what the next steps are and have a clear idea of how to go about achieving them.
One of the most useful skills they will have developed is how to identify what information is needed and how to source it. Identifying which member of a team is best prepared to contribute certain skills or knowledge or develop certain parts of the project will also improve its overall execution. As autonomous learners, they will also be better equipped to manage the resources available, source reliable information either online or from the library or self-study centre and use this information appropriately while avoiding plagiarism and respecting copyright.
The years ahead
All of these competencies that our students further develop during their time in higher education will also be relevant and necessary in the future workplace. It is clear that building up a wide range of learning to learn skills during our formative years will stand us in very good stead for the years ahead.
Source : https://www.cambridge.org/elt/blog/2020/01/08/learning-to-learn-for-life/