How Learning Happens: My Summer Learning

Words can be like X-rays if you use them properly—they’ll go through anything. You read and you’re pierced.

Aldous Huxley

A colleague recently showed me a book that landed on her recommended list on Amazon: How Learning Happens: Seminal Works in Educational Psychology and What They Mean in Practice by Paul A. Kirschner, Emeritus Professor of Educational Psychology at the Open University of the Netherlands, and professor Carl Hendrick from Wellington College, UK. The pair of academicians have curated and highlighted twenty-eight seminal works on teaching and learning spanning a fifty year period.

I know. I know what you are thinking. Boring. Why, Jeff? Why? Why spend your summer focusing on educational research (and not just one paper but 28!)? Why not learn some differential calculus instead? Or origami? Or learn some Japanese? But yet for some reason, I was intrigued. A quick flip through my colleague’s copy of the book gave me pause and a re-imagining of how I might spend my professional learning time this summer suddenly revealed itself.

Think of Kirschner and Hendrick’s book as the Coles Notes for teachers. Each highlighted article is treated like a chapter and receives the same layout. A quick summary of each work is given by the authors (in very layperson terms, I might add) is followed by a verbatim reprint of the article’s original abstract. The beauty is that the authors spend the majority of their efforts breaking down the main concept of each article, draw conclusions of the specific work for education, offer a synopsis on how we can apply it in our teaching, and lastly, provide a list of the main takeaways. A list QR codes for related articles and videos rounds out each chapter. And perhaps what is underplayed in all of this are insightful illustrations by renown graphics designer, Oliver Caviglioli.

From Albert Bandura’s self-efficacy and positive social cognitive theory work, Sweller’s cognitive load during problem solving, Black and William’s assessment and classroom learning, Wenger’s communities of practice and social systems theory, and Zimmerman’s social learning theory, just to name a few…

Once you stop learning, you start dying.

Albert Einstein

So, after more than two decades since entering the education field, and nearly fifteen years since completing an M.Ed., I will honour this craving to get curious, explore, and be open to expanding my palette and practice through these influential windows into educational research.

I have started a checklist (of sorts) that will also me to compare my current teaching practice against the 60 years of educational psychology research shared in the book. Are there gaping blind spots in my practice? What immediate pieces can I adopt for my teaching and learning environment? What are some of the practices that I already do and do well? Where can I double-up to improve my own self-efficacy as an educator?

Back to the book…


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