Effortless Learning

What used to just be called education, is now known as Teaching and Learning (T&L).



Teaching is the pushing of knowledge towards a student.

Learning is the pulling in of that knowledge by the student.

So teachers push and students pull. A good T&L environment is where both activities are in perfect unison, with the knowledge being pushed in a way and at a speed that it can be reeled in by the eager student. Clearly this will work best in an interactive, small class-size environment.

There is an onus on the teacher to deliver the knowledge in an easy-to-digest fashion, taking time over the more difficult concepts, and moving more quickly over the easy stuff. A student should feel neither overloaded, nor bored, but just nicely in the optimal learning zone.

There is an onus on the student to be willing to learn (as learning can be painful), and to fully engage with the process. And not only to learn, but to learn in a critical, questioning way.

So where does it go wrong? The finger of blame is usually pointed at the teacher, for being boring, or just “not a good teacher”, or poorly prepared. Indeed I know from experience that a really bad teacher can turn a student off a topic for life. But generally I would suggest that the standard of teaching has increased radically since I was a student. Lecturers often go to extraordinary lengths to keep up their end of the bargain. They use technology, they put notes on the Web, they “flip” the classroom and use a battery of novel techniques.

Problem is that the better the teacher gets at pushing, then for the same outcome the student can relax on their end. And I suspect that is what has been happening.

And here is a radical thought. Maybe over the long run a student learns less from the “good” teacher, precisely because they have to put in less effort themselves. And maybe their “learning” over the long term may turn out to be more superficial – just good enough to get through an exam before being dumped and forgotten. Conversely the student who has to work harder to overcome the shortcomings of a “bad” teacher, might end up learning the stuff much better.

So colleagues – you are trying too hard! Relax! Just give your lecture, present the knowledge fairly and clearly, and make it clear to the students that it is up to them to make the effort to digest it, lumpy bits and all.