Blog Post

Learning Principles

 

Abstract

            In life we may follow certain guidelines to help us reach our goals. When it comes to learning experiences, these guidelines can be referred to as learning principles. Learning principles are the set of tools we find help us to achieve successful learning experiences, both as a learner and as an instructor. While these learning principles may differ from person to person, it is important that each of us recognize and acknowledge what principles we utilize in our learning journeys and make sure that we apply them. In this paper I will discuss in more detail the three learning principles that I find to be most important to me, and that I utilize to get the most out of my learning. I also use these learning principles to design modules that are useful, appealing, and relevant when I act as the instructor. The first of these learning principles is interesting and relatable topics. We are more likely to gain something from our learning experience if it involves something that interests us or that we can apply in our personal lives or careers. The second principle is that learning must be engaging. Learners are more satisfied when the experience is interactive. The final learning principle discussed in this paper is a willingness to be open minded. Learners must be open to new methods, new technology, and the ideas of others. These three learning principles, when put into action, can bring about a fun, memorable, and meaningful learning experience.

Introduction

When it comes to learning in any type of environment, there is no doubt that certain tools can be applied to make the learning experience more successful for both the learner and the instructor. These tools can be referred to as learning principles. Every person may have a different set of learning principles that they utilize to get the most out of their learning experience.. It does not matter so much which principles you carry with you on your learning journey. What matters is that every learner takes the time to recognize these principles at work in their learning experiences, identify which they believe are most important, and learn to utilize them as tools for success. In this paper I will discuss the top three learning principles I have identified as most important to my learning success.

Learning Principles

The first of these principles is that the learning topic should be something that is interesting and relatable to the learner. If the learning topic is not interesting or relevant, the learner will most likely not get much out of the learning experience and may not even pick up on the message being delivered. I know that I prefer to learn about things that interest and excite me or skills that I can utilize in my life or on the job. I am more motivated to master the material when it is something I relate to. This has been proven true for other learners as well. In a study done by the Midwest Virtual Education Research Alliance they found that the more engaged the learner is, the better they perform in the class, and the better they understand the material overall (Pazzaglia, Clements, Lavigne, Stafford, 2016). This ties to the idea of self-directed learning discussed in Learning In Adulthood. Self-directed learning is defined as “a process of learning, in which people take the primary initiative for planning, carrying out, and evaluation their own learning experiences” (Merriam, Caffarella, & Baumgartner, 2007, p. 110). Individuals tend to seek out learning opportunities for themselves and commit to being fully responsible for their success when they are invested in the topic.

            As a learner I can make my odds for a successful learning experience greater if I deepen my knowledge on topics that will excite me and keep me motivated to learn. As an instructor, I can increase the likelihood of a successful learning experience if I identify who my audience is and what they are looking to get out of my teaching. If I know my audience on a more personal level I can help identify what their interests are and maybe take an educated guess at why they are pursuing this learning experience in the first place. This will allow me to include examples that answer the question “What are they looking to get out of this” and I can use examples that the learners can relate to what is going on in their lives or in their jobs to make the teaching relevant and interesting.

            The second learning principle that I find necessary in my own learning and that I implement when acting as the instructor is that learning should be engaging. Research by Dziuban, Moskal, Thompson, Kramer, DeCantis, and Hermsdorfer shows that students prefer active rather than passive learning environments (2015). Learners participate in a highly interactive world and because of this they look for the same environment in their classes. Studies show that both quantity and quality of student interactions are highly correlated with student satisfaction in various learning environments (Dziuban, Moskal, Thompson, Kramer, DeCantis, Hermsdorfer, 2015). When students are satisfied they are more likely to be engaged and responsive which creates a more creative and collaborative learning environment for all involved.

            As a learner, I enjoy exercises that are engaging. I like to be hands on and I like to be able to collaborate with other learners. I believe this can be a better learning tool than just reading the material alone. When you collaborate with others you are able to see things through different lenses. This enhances your understanding of the topic. I find getting to know my own learning style through assessments like the KSLI or Caliper has helped me to be an engaged learner as well, because I know my strengths and limitations. I know what areas I could use the help of others in. For example, I am very goal oriented. I can take a problem, find a solution and put forth an action plan to solve the problem. I am not, however, the most creative person. Idea orientation is not my strongest suite, so I work well with someone who is very creative because we can balance each other very well.  Knowing this helps me to engage with and collaborate with other learners in a way where we all get something out of the experience.

            In my current role I work on a Talent Development Team and recently started facilitating trainings as well as developing and designing my own courses. In order to make them interesting and effective for the learners I work to add interactive elements to keep my audience engaged. Much of our training is done virtually on our WebEx software. I utilize tools like the whiteboard, chat feature, and polling feature that allow learners to share their thoughts and vote on suggestions, etc. We also share screens and I find that helps keep people engaged because if they know their peers are going to be seeing their work they will be more likely to pay attention and participate.

We conduct surveys on all of our training courses, and I receive nothing but positive feedback on the interactive portions of the training. Many learners will refer to something unexciting like new Underwriting policies as fun because we make the learning exercises hands on. As a team, we score much better on surveys for the courses that are interactive versus those that are lecture based. This supports the notion that learners are more satisfied when they are involved in the learning experience. This is also proof that learning can be successful and fun in the digital age as long as instructors work to create the same level of interaction that you would expect in a face to face learning environment.

The third learning principle that I have found to be most important is keeping an open mind. This means being willing to try new techniques and being open to the ideas of others. This learning principle applies to several different topics. As a learner, I have learned to be open to the ideas of others. Keeping an open mind can increase my own understanding of a topic and in a group setting it enhances the project to have various points of view come into play. It also means adapting to different ways of doing things.

 On a large scale, learning in the digital age is something that learners have had to adapt to. Student enrollment in online courses has increased in the past 15 years and continues to grow (Dziuban, Moskal, Thompson, Kramer, DeCantis, Hermsdorfer, 2015). With online learning taking off at such high speeds, learners have to adapt to this new way of doing things. I personally had to undergo a bit of a shift in my mindset and way of doing things when it came to meeting with our LLGs. I had only ever worked in traditional groups where we met in person and could all look at the same computer screen and read each other’s facial expressions and body language. In the digital age things are done differently.

 In our online class it is not possible to have a traditional meeting with my LLG because we are all in various parts of the country. For that reason we had to be willing to try new methods like meeting on collaborate or doing conference calls or face timing. This is only my second class, and in my first class I will admit I was not that comfortable with this! I found it hard to connect at times. With practice though (and we have been getting a lot of it) I have found that I have quickly transitioned to this virtual meeting style and it has been a successful way to connect, build relationships, and collaborate as a group. Cathy Davidson said “the way you overcome the obstacles in your environment is by adapting your movements to the environment” ( Davidson, 2011, p. 140-141). The shift to online learning is inevitable; the digital age is here now. We can either be open to it and embrace it, and in doing so increase our knowledge and understanding, or we can limit ourselves to traditional learning experiences and fall behind.

I think this willingness to keep an open mind can apply to all learning environments, not just online, where we work with others. Leaners need to be open to the ideas and opinions of their peers and be willing to try to see things through the point of view of someone else. We need to remember that just because we do something a certain way does not make that the right way and all other ways wrong. There are always several ways to arrive at the same solution, and when you are willing to open your mind to these other avenues, you will learn so much more than you would by sticking to the same old method. Cathy Davidson referred to this as “thinking flexibly” (Davidson, 2011, p. 136).

Conclusion

I have found these three learning principles are most important to me, and that following these guidelines has allowed me to be successful in my learning experiences. If all learners think about what matters most to them as far as creating a successful learning experience and apply those principles in their own learning and also in their role as an instructor, then we will all have much brighter, more enjoyable, more enhancing learning journeys!

 

Bibliography

Merriam, S. B. , Caffarella, R. , Baumgartner, L. (2007). Learning in Adulthood. San Francisco California: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.                                                                                                                             

Davidson, C. N.(2011). Now You See It. New York: Penguin Group.

Pazzaglia, A. , Clements, M. , Lavigne, H. , Stafford, E. (2016). An Analysis of Student Engagement Patterns and Online Course Outcomes in Wisconsin. Retrieved from http://eds.b.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.sju.edu/eds/detail/detail?vid=6&sid=d...

Dziuban, C. , Moskal, T. , Thompson, K. , Kramer, L. , DeCantis, G. , Hermsdorfer, A. ( 2016, March). Student Satisaction with Online Learning: Is It a Psychological Contract?. Retrieved from http://eds.a.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.sju.edu/eds/detail/detail?vid=8&sid=e...

 

 

 

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