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A student has solved a complicated equation.

Spotlight on Student Support: Learning to Learn

Sarah Semyanik
Sarah Semyanik (2 posts) SEND Coordinator View Profile

These days I look across the campus at ISM and marvel at the resilience and energy of the young people around me. 

For the last few years, our students – in common with children all over the world – have had to learn how to learn in entirely new ways: sometimes on campus together with friends, at other times alone across vast distances. They have become skilled at handling change; they have patiently trialled and tested a range of methods of interacting with teachers and peers and have developed some unique learning skills as a result. This could be the most resilient, resourceful, and positive generation of young learners yet.

It may seem hard to know how best to support young people through difficult times and help them stay on track through school. Research suggests a robust way of boosting learning is to focus on metacognition and self-regulation. In simple terms, metacognition can mean ‘thinking about thinking’ or ‘learning to learn’.

A student is puzzled by the task.

It’s about a student’s ability to monitor, review and direct their own learning and to develop their knowledge about how they learn. Self-regulated learners are aware of their own strengths and weaknesses, and can motivate themselves to engage in, and improve, their learning. As we turn towards an increasingly uncertain future, the most powerful and versatile skill that any of us can develop, is the ability to understand ourselves; to know how to learn, and how to learn better.

A self-regulated learner will practise cognitive skills such as using flash cards for revision but, additionally, will then also be able to monitor their own performance for signs of progress. Students revising for exams could discover the huge benefits of, for example, ‘spaced practice’ (where practice is broken up into a number of short sessions, over a longer period of time) compared to ‘massed practice’ – more commonly known as ‘cramming’.

Student collaborate to solve the assigned task.

Paying attention to the way we learn, alongside focusing on what we learn, will help us to gain confidence in our own abilities and lead to more flexible and proactive learners. We have all had to develop new learning skills and find new confidence within the current climate and recent past. It is time to own, acknowledge and share our new talents.