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  1. Learning is an Acquired Art

    by

    “How to learn from an effective teacher” is a question that many people including educators, academics and health care professionals, often ask with regard to children, teens and adults, who appear to have learning difficulties of various kinds.Perhaps you are wondering how to learn from an effective teacher, simply in terms of a serious inquiry about how to learn more easily. First, note the use of the word ‘effective’ as used in relation to the word ‘teacher’. In effective teaching, whatever goals one has set initially, in conjunction with proposed, intended or expected results with regard to successful learning, are realized.

    Being aware that learning is an acquired art, is an important part of learning from an effective teacher. More importantly, learning is an acquired skill that undergoes further development throughout our entire lives.Look at what may appear to be an ideal learning scenario.While this seems to be a scenario where learning comes easily to Lexie, eidetic memory is not a learning process as such, even though having a photographic memory may enhance various learning experiences she has. She has total, instant recall of what she sees or reads. In other words, her mind takes a snapshot or photograph, which remains in her memory.

    Unfortunately, most adults and children do not have photographic memories, like this fictitious character and have to learn everything one way, or another. Sometimes, it seems that certain people are destined to learn everything the hard way, even when taught by an effective teacher.Returning to the thought that learning is an acquired art, the following tips about the art of learning from an effective teacher, may prove to be helpful. The question of how one can ‘learn to learn’ more easily, arises too.

    Identify the learning problem, if possible.

    Try to identify what the actual learning problem is and where the problem seems to be. In other words, does the learning problem have something to do with the child, teen or adult who demonstrates difficulty learning, or does it have more to do with the teacher?

    Identifying the teacher as being a truly effective teacher is important.

    Educators, parents and others are aware that we all need to need to learn many different things, sometimes associated with various degrees of learning difficulty.Parents are immediately aware when their children’s teachers appear to be highly effective with other children, but not with their own. When there appears to be a learning problem with a child, or with many children in a classroom, one must first ask whether the area of concern is the teacher, or the children. The same is true for teenagers and adults. Then, one might wonder if there is a more effective teacher.Remember that each teacher and pupil has a different personality and sometimes, personalities do clash. This kind of a scenario is generally not conducive to healthy learning. When the problem appears to be the teacher, there are generally other teachers, who prove to be more effective.

    Recognize that the learning curve is different for each person

    Learning is not necessarily always easy for every child, teenager or adult. Each person is different in terms of his or her speed, ability and capacity to learn. Tabulating data like this on graphs, demonstrates learning curves that vary from person to person. Some people learn everything much easier than others do; most people learn some things more easily than other things.  At times, even basic learning skills that most people acquire instinctively, may be learned by others, but only over a long period of time and with a lot of effort and repetition, on their part.

    Discuss the suspected learning problem with the teacher

    An effective teacher usually knows how to teach his or her students learning skills, or how to learn. He or she will be open to discuss areas of learning that appear problematic. When learning skills are developed, and the art of learning has been learned, most people are able to learn many things on their own and will usually attempt to do so.Effective teachers recognize and draw from numerous teaching models and theories in order to teach those who have learning problems. One particular teaching model is not necessarily effective for teaching everyone how to learn.   Provide a quiet, safe and comfortable learning environment for anyone who demonstrates a learning problem.Learning is easier in a quiet, safe and comfortable environment, where there is a minimum of interruption and stress. This does not necessarily mean total isolation, as many people learn more easily, when they are in amongst their families, peers and/or friends. They are more likely to be comfortable and happier there.

    Provide good role models for the person who has a learning problem, to follow

    When a person has a learning problem, he or she is not alone, as many people have difficulty learning different things.Note that some people tend to learn from the left side of their brain, while others learn from the right side of their brain. Providing an appropriate role model for the person with a learning problem to follow, is important. In other words, a child who learns from the left side of his or her brain may be able to learn more easily, when taught by a teacher who learns the same way.

    Identify possible learning disabilities

    Consider the possibility of a psychological assessment to rule out possible learning disabilities like dyslexia, autism, brain damage, etc. Identifying problem areas immediately, helps one to know how to learn the art of learning, in his or her particular situation. Are there obstacles to learning, like impaired vision or diminished hearing?

    Practice patience with regard to teaching and learning

    Patience is crucial aspect of the learning process, particularly with respect to anyone who has a learning problem. An effective teacher will be patient with any child, teen or adult who demonstrates difficulty learning.Determine whether the person with a learning problem is a visual learner, or an auditory learner. In other words, does that person learn by seeing something, or hearing it? We do not always learn the same way and may learn one way or the other, or even both ways, at different times. Show pride in any degree of learning success, accomplishment or achievement. Learning can be very hard work for some people and any degree of success with respect to learning, deserves a reward, even if the reward is just in terms of verbal or non-verbal praise.When something has been learned, achieved or accomplished, let it serve as a building block or a stepping-stone for the next thing to be learned.

    Note the order of the learning process

    Sometimes learning steps take on a distinct order, but not always. Eventually, all of the steps fall into place, in successful learning.Learning is like a piece of artwork, painted in various stages. Where does one have to start or finish? Is the learning order always set in stone? Can one achieve the same results using variations of the learningorder?Organizing the learning steps in a way that they are easy to understand by anyone, not just the person who has problems learning, often proves beneficial. In summary, most of these learning tips are common sense guidelines for those seeking to learn from effective teachers. Seeing learning as an art to be developed, suggests that learning is an acquired skill, which can improve over time.Develop the art of acquired learning and take pride in it. In time, you will become an effective teacher and having gone through the learning process yourself, either the easy or the hard way, you will appreciate the art of acquired learning, even more fully.

    W. Diane Van Zwol

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