Learning to Learn

Keep learning

Going through the materials for units 4 and 5, especially the topic of meta-cognition, I realized that the entire time I was in school I was never taught how to learn. There is an expectation that kids will go to school for over a decade and learn the things that will be necessary for a successful future, but there is never any attention paid to teaching kids how to learn all of the things they will be required to learn. Primary and secondary school are meant to prepare kids for their future and for being productive members of society, but the expectation is that the kids already know how to learn. It is vital to a child’s success in school and in life that they know how to learn, which is why I think that Paul Andersen’s video, Metacognition: learning about learning, is so valuable. He goes over ten ways to learn how to learn and provides some excellent information that all teachers should have and implement in the classroom (BozemanScience, 2009). All of his strategies would be applicable to the language learning classroom, but there are a few that stood out – engage by paying attention (fake it if you have to) and have fun.

Samuel Johnson said, “the true art of memory is the art of attention” (tedtalks, 2011). Understanding that attention and memory are related does not require science, rather it only requires observation. It is nearly impossible to learn anything without the active process of paying attention, which is why learning to pay attention should be incorporated into the educational environment. Paying attention is becoming more and more difficult in today’s world of smart-phones and instant access to entertainment and distraction. Working memory has been directly affected by this constant distraction, in fact, we were once capable of holding seven things in our working memory, but that has dwindled to four for a span of 10-20 seconds (Tedtalksdirector, 2013). To help students learn to pay more attention and to block out distractions, mindfulness mediation should be taught. In a study on mindfulness meditation and attention, it was found that those who performed mindfulness mediation were much better at maintaining attention than those that did not meditate (Semple, 2010). Clearly, teaching students to meditate and having them make time each day to do it will directly benefit their ability to concentrate and to regulate their emotional states, which will, in turn, help them to become better learners.

(Resource for strategies to increase student motivation: http://www.edutopia.org/blog/strategies-getting-keeping-brains-attention-donna-wilson-marcus-conyers)

We learn more when we are relaxed and enjoying what we are learning. In short, we learn more when we are having fun. If learning feels like work, it makes learning hard. When learning is fun, students develop intrinsic motivation to learn, which is the kind of motivation that does not require external rewards, rather it comes from within. In fact, it was found that intrinsically motivated students performed better and were more engaged than their counterparts (Cerasoli, Nicklin, & Ford, 2014). In the language learning classroom, students need to understand why they are learning a second language so they can focus on their goals, they need to be able to connect the learning to the real-world, and they need to find the learning process stimulating. Without intrinsic motivation, a student will find it very difficult to overcome the hard parts of learning.

(Resource for teaching intrinsic motivation: http://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/teaching-and-learning/nine-strategies-to-spark-adult-students-intrinsic-motivation/)

In conclusion, in order for students, adults or not, to improve their second language fluency, they must learn how to learn, they must learn to pay attention, and they must learn to be intrinsically motivated. These three things are an excellent way to prepare students to be good students, but in order for them to learn how to be functional in their target language, they must focus on incorporating the things they are learning into actual use. If a student learns a bunch of verb forms and vocabulary but never actually uses it in a conversational setting or in actual language production, they will not truly learn how to use their new language. David Perkins calls this “playing the whole game” and it is a fantastic way to engage students in true and authentic learning (Perkins, 2009).

(Here is a list of ten TED talks that will help the language learner be a better language leaner: http://blogs.transparent.com/language-news/2016/06/06/10-must-watch-ted-talks-for-language-learners/)


BozemanScience. (2009, October 4). Metacognition: Learning about Learning. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/E8klKdhNop8

Cerasoli, C. P., Nicklin, J. M., & Ford, M. T. (2014). Intrinsic motivation and extrinsic incentives jointly predict performance: A 40-year meta-analysis.Psychological Bulletin140(4), 980.

Perkins, D. N., & ebrary, I. (2009). Making Learning Whole : How Seven Principles of Teaching Can Transform Education. San Francisco, Calif: Jossey-Bass.

Semple, R. J. (2010). Does mindfulness meditation enhance attention? A randomized controlled trial. Mindfulness1(2), 121-130. Retrieved from http://portal.idc.ac.il/he/main/services/studentsdean/develop_study_ability/documents/semple.pdf

tedtalks. (2011, April 17). Adam Gazzaley, MD, PhD – Brain: Memory and Multitasking.          Retrieve from https://youtu.be/tiANn5PZ4BI

Tedtalksdirector. (2013, November 22). Peter Doolittle: How your “working memory” makes sense of the world. Retrieved at https://youtu.be/UWKvpFZJwcE


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