About learning

February 3, 2014

I have spent my childhood and adolescence implicitly believing in ideas about learning that in later life I have come to disbelieve. It appears to me that those ideas are quite common in our society, including among schoolchildren. These false ideas cause significant harm to many of those who believe in them and, being widespread, to society. I therefore think it is important to disabuse students, and particularly children, of these ideas.

The false ideas about learning maintain their hold in the mind of the public mainly because they are rarely examined. One of the false ideas is that the nature of learning is self-evident and needs no examination. This, of course, makes those ideas self-reinforcing.

This essay is a brief description of those erroneous ideas about learning and of an alternative view – in my opinion, the correct view. To make things concrete, I start by listing a set of practical implications of the rejection of the false notions and adoption of the alternative view. These are things that can and should be done by the various people involved in education – students, teachers, and managers of education systems.


4 Responses to “About learning”

  1. Yoram Gat Says:

    I now published this essay as a Kindle e-book: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00QNMZ0KE.

  2. ShiraDest Says:

    I agree with all of your points (in fact, this is what the newer teaching methodologies are also saying, AT Long Last!!), except for point 4 (I believe) and point 10: at least until a certain age, students lack the experience in life to know what it is they need to learn and also, teachers of children have a responsibility never to give up on or allow the opting out of any child. Teachers must therefore find ways to motivate and help each and every student to make the efforts and learn his or her strongest learning styles (of the 9 defined by Gardner). Teachers do not have the option of teaching only children who want to learn, but must motivate all kids to learn. Otherwise, I agree fully with your thoughts.

  3. Yoram Gat Says:


    I think that motivation is largely inherent. As I see things, allowing the child to choose what they want to learn is not “giving up” on the child – it is rather respecting their individuality.

    The notion that a teacher can cause a student to be interested in a given subject is disrespectful toward the child. It implies that the child’s interests are determined from the outside rather than being part of the child’s individual nature.

    Note that for various reason people (including children) often learn things they are not interested in. That is possible, but difficult. Teachers should be aware when that happens.

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