Assignment 1: Universal Characteristics of Good Learning

Can all good learning experiences be measured on the same characteristics? What defines a “good” learning experience?

I would argue that learning does require some key similarities:

Coming from language education, I may be biased, but if we understand language as a key tool for collaboration, co-constructing knowledge, and learning, I would argue that one of the most important pieces of a well-design learning experience is the language used.  This could be the language used in materials, the language used in prompting and assessment, the language used between learners and the language used between the learner and the teacher. Language is an incredibly powerful tool and it can be argued that language constructs the architecture of the learning experience and is the backbone of the learning community. Ineffective language use can have a detrimental effect on student engagement.

A good learning experience should also be learner-driven. Giving the learner more power over the learning experience serves a number of purposes. First, there is no reason for a learning experience to be completely linear- let the learner explore the knowledge in a way that makes sense to them. Second, the learner will have much more buy-in if they have more control and can direct their own learning. If they can take tangents or explore the concepts that intrigue them the most, they will be better able to construction knowledge in a way that is meaningful to them. This is extra important when learning experiences are collaborative, as it allows learners to negotiate knowledge and build on each other’s input.

I’m a firm believer that learning requires doing. I suppose lectures still have some benefit, but I see them as a tool to prepare students for a bigger learning experience, and that the actual learning occurs when students take information and actually DO something with it, be it solving a problem, or designing something, or even just engaging in a discussion with others. It’s the actual application of information to a task that gives students the opportunity to consolidate information into knowledge.

I see “story-driven” to mean being rooted in real world application. Being able to see how learning is beneficial in an authentic scenario makes the learning much more meaningful to students and increases engagement immensely. A few months ago I attending a case teaching workshop run by Ivey- one key feature of all of the cases was that they started with a story, usually about a person or a group of people who had a problem. By sharing specific, personal details about the people in the story (re: their kids, jobs, stressors) it humanizes the activity and takes it from the abstract to the concrete. Stories can also be a useful way to tie learning events together, if a specific story is threaded throughout multiple modules or units. (In Medical Education, we use patient cases to discuss problems. We are now looking towards creating longitudinal patient cases where students will revisit the same patient regularly throughout their years of student, each time looking at them through a different lens).

Engaging could be seen as the driving factor (the most important), as every other characteristic I’ve selected I’ve chosen BECAUSE it makes the learning experience more engaging and draws students in to the experience. Motivation is key to successful learning, and students who are not engaged are not motivated.

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