Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Looking Through a Learner's Eyes

We all started out as learners and through the course of our journey, we still learn outside of the "walls" of the university through experiences - both the good and the bad.

Insightful learning is quite useful in a sense that it gives you a 360-degree unbiased view of all sides of a scenario, so in order to understand the uniqueness of every learner - a teacher needs to put himself or herself in the shoes of his/her student.

It has always been a constant learning opportunity on my part, because each learner ironically have unique needs but similar patterns of difficulties. It is through these patterns that an educator can create or search for materials/solutions to address these common obstacles that learners experience.

The other side of the coin is the uniqueness of each individual's needs, which means that there is some "customization" that will be done for the learner to respond to the lesson more effectively.

It's not always a bed of roses for both the learner and the teacher of course, because there will always be challenges and the journey towards fluency is long and inevitably arduous.

Finishing a course or a learning material gives the learner a sense of accomplishment and that in turn fuels his/her motivation to further progress to more difficult materials and learn more.

Others will probably be satisfied with their current level and focus more on their busy lives - an understandable fact of life, of course.

There are some however who will consistently study and learn because it gives them a sense of fulfillment and direction and willing to keep on learning despite the difficulties.

There is really no right or wrong with whatever choice a learner makes, because each one has to decide whatever he or she feels is fit for his/her particular circumstances.

I have had my share of being stuck in a rut, failing exams, doing tons of homework, projects and meeting deadlines and constantly forgetting important learning points and getting confused, having clear-cut goals from the start and discovering that those goals were not really what I had expected them to be in the end and simply not meeting them and a host of other difficulties that a learner could possibly face.

Learning a language is inarguably a different story of course. The phonetic and structure differences between the English language and a learner's mother tongue can be quite daunting that any learner can have a "question mark moment", leaving him or her with a high level of frustration akin to having a migraine.

This feeling of exasperation is all too familiar to me when I was a learner myself and it is this similarity that I can relate to quite well.  I use this as a tool to elucidate the "whys" and "hows" of language-learning obstacles.

While a dose of radical creativity can somehow provide the necessary solution for some learners, but elucidating some unique difficulties can be quite elusive. I am sure though that my persistent tenacity to find answers will result in a "light bulb moment" sooner than expected.

I have discovered though that learners and teachers have "both" sides in them. A learner can be a teacher as he or she "teaches" himself/herself, helps other learners or engages in a cultural or academic exchange with a teacher.

A teacher in return never stops learning either through his or her own volition, life experiences or from his/her students and colleagues. It's not just part of our profession, but already routinary or instinctive on our part.

As a teacher goes through different obstacles and consequent discoveries, he or she matures through the insightful experience and becomes more adept and intuitive. Similarly, students may experience the same insightful learning through their unique difficulties and become more adept and intuitive in the long run.

Experimenting with different learning strategies (which means focusing on what is effective and scrapping those that aren't) should be the focus of every learner. It's the very essence of "customization", which is why teachers have different approaches to different learning difficulties of students. Teachers also experiment with different teaching strategies and employ those that are effective.

I stumbled upon this random picture on the net and it pretty much sums up what learning is all about - it doesn't really matter if you are learning a new language or learning how to play a musical instrument, because it can be applied to virtually anything that you are new at:

Reflective or insightful learning is the only way to know what works and what doesn't. If it doesn't, then I guess it's time to change your learning strategies - it should really be this dynamic. Teachers do the same thing when learning and teaching - we never just go for one solution or teaching strategy, because there is no such thing as "absolute" when it comes to teaching or learning for that matter.

“If you are not progressing along the true way, a slight twist in the mind can become a major twist. This must be pondered well.” 
― Miyamoto MusashiThe Complete Book of Five Rings

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