Gathering the right learning tools

Updated: Dec 11, 2019

Stop! Stop? Just stop. Gather the correct tools first, then continue…

Learning does not come naturally for all students, some learners need to STOP along the way, gather the tools for learning and be shown how to use the tools effectively for optimum production, or more simply: some students just need to be taught how to learn.

For some students’ academic success (together with hard work) just comes naturally, but for so many others academic success, despite hard work, is foreign. For students, who can keenly absorb and recall information, schooling is a cinch. For others it really hard!

The irony all to familiar success of that student who walks away with all the academic accolades rarely escapes me because while I am watching that student, to whom all this success come naturally, those students, (those left behind) who I know often work triply harder than that student does leave me feeling terribly guilty about not equipping those students with the tools to trick their brains into being taught to recall information and then how to manipulate it. It's most teachers' Sisyphus dilemma.


Under achievement affects self-esteem, it unnecessarily labels children, generates threats of punishment from parents and teachers, yet no-one is stopping to give them the tools they need in order to be academically successful. They are tired. They are tired of not knowing what to use and how to use it. Those students begin to opt out of the learning process. Those students get anxious. Those students feel worn down. Those students are tired of learning, because they aren’t actually learning how to learn. Those students are the hard workers, those left behind. Some indefinitely.

In secondary school, we pick up from where the primary school years have left off. The aftermath of these leftovers is often a result of:

  • Too much content, jammed into the early years, which creates a superficial understanding of ALL content.

  • Consolidation time is limited. A limited number of learners are able to cope with the hopping about of necessary foundation concepts. This does not allow for depth of knowledge. Furthermore, it can confuse those learners with average to below average processing skills. The spin off effect is anxiety, stress and overwhelm.

  • Some content just sucks the creativity out of any learner! And, some content just sucks the creativity out of teachers having to teach it! The architecture of making the most uninteresting content appealing it a daily challenge for both learners and teachers alike.

  • Over testing. Tests are not the best way to gauge a learner’s understanding of content. Tests, merely, assess whether those students can write a test and nothing more. Assessments entail variable skills and if those learners do not test well, it does not necessarily mean that they do not understand the content; it simply means that for one or other reason, they do not perform well in tests. Worse still, is that secondary teachers are, often, left with over-testing-scars from the developmental years, of those who have worked hard to test well, but are still unable to THINK. This is most definitely not what education is about.

How, and why, do we heal these scars as best we can?

We can restart the process at secondary school to produce thinkers. In a world where knowledge of facts is valued as only that: knowledge of facts, we need to restart the difficult task of teaching students how to learn (a cognitive process) and then how to think about thinking (a metacognitive process). Originality of thought is at an all-time low. Critical and creative thinking takes time, it is a process: a process that is rushed in favour of content, regurgitation of facts and testing facts.


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