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Good Learners Go into the Pit

Staff blogger Dallas Moffat Assistant Dean of Learning – Student Development and Learning Analytics

When facing challenges in learning, students are often faced with a decision to stay within their comfort zone or extend themselves to solve the problem. Good learners leap into the Learning Pit where they can develop important exam, study, and life skills such as defining, evaluating, interpreting, predicting, and verifying.

The Learning Pit my look like a dark deep hole, but really it illustrates the stages of learning a person moves through as they develop strategies to overcome a problem. At the beginning of the learning journey, students have surface knowledge and superficial understanding. They know the basics and have a reasonable grasp of the facts. In a single day, students may be confronted with multiple intellectual dilemmas forcing them to develop critical and creative thinking skills. When faced with a problem or unfamiliar task, a feeling of apprehension or nervousness is common. It is here students need to make the courageous decision to jump into the learning pit to resolve the problem and move forward.

Once inside the metaphorical pit, students build resilience and apply learning strategies as they work through the struggles knowing that deeper learning will come from the cognitive conflict. Learning strategies such as examining ideas, posing questions, and look for contradictions are explicitly taught in class to develop active learners who can engage with a problem to find a solution. There is also a collaborative element to the pit as students come together to support each other and build on each other’s ideas.

The research is clear that students learn best when they learn collaboratively and in doing so, they also become the teachers of others. By applying these learning strategies and working collaboratively, students will move past the uncomfortable feeling of not knowing to solve the problem.

As students move out of the learning pit there is a sense of accomplishment and achievement as superficial knowledge becomes deep understanding of concepts. Through determination and perseverance, students have learnt what to do when they did not know what to do.

Next time you are in the Learning Pit on your learning journey, remember it is a vital step down so you can step up to achieve your goals.

Check out the Learning Pit Video

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