George Lucas Educational Foundation

Do we teach kids HOW to learn?

Do we teach kids HOW to learn?

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I've found, from time to time, that a student will be struggling in school but the underlying problem is not so much the curriculum, as a lack of basic skills, such as:
-how to organize their work
-time management
-note taking
-understanding what the teacher thinks is important (Saliency determination)
-understanding the difference between memorization and mastery

just to name a few. How many of these things do we teach kids explicitly and how many do we expect them just to "get" over time? Many of these skills are also frontal lobe executive functions that really start to develop during the middle school time frame, meaning sometimes the problems kids have are that we are asking them to run software (assignments, concepts, etc.) they don't yet have sufficient brain hardware to run.

How could we better help students understand the tools and "hacks" of the learning process, rather than expecting they will come to these methods all on their own? How can we make our requirements for things like a binder and dividers more meaningful by helping them to understand the reasoning behind these organizing tools?

What do you do to help your students learn how to learn?

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Laura Thomas's picture
Laura Thomas
Director, Antioch University New England Center for School Renewal, Author of Facilitating Authentic Learning, Director of the Antioch Critical Skills Program; Elementary Library Media Specialist

I think part of this is to get into the "meta' of these things. What does it mean to be "organized?" What does it look like and/ or sound like when we manage our time effectively? How can we know what really matters to different audiences (teachers, students, etc? At Antioch we use the term "Quality Criteria" to describe the characteristics of some of these more nebulous skills- then we target, teach, practice and assess them alongside academic content.

I love this question. Can't wait to hear what others have to say!

Gwen Pescatore's picture
Gwen Pescatore
President Home & School Assoc, #ParentCamp Organizer, Co-Moderator #PTchat

A few of us parents had this discussion just before ParentCamp and saying that this would be a topic we'd love to see it how can parents help students with learning this, or a session for the students.

My question is/was, is that something that really needs to be taught along the way, in class and from home as opposed to say a 1 hour session? Something I definitely have considered suggesting as one of our student/parent/edu voices during our PTO meetings.

Becky Fisher's picture
Becky Fisher
Education Consultant

I was just having a similar discussion about teaching project management, which is a very important career-ready skill. But I think it's one of those skills you need to practice to really internalize it. In order for students to really learn how to learn, I think the best we can do is offer them scaffolded practice time. For example, for students to learn how to prioritize, they need to be given challenges that force them to do so, and then reflect on that process.

Just a thought :)

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