Recently, I had a conversation with my good friend’s 10-year-old son who is attending an exclusive school in London, one that comes with a hefty price tag of nearly £25,000 per year. To my astonishment, not a single teacher had taken the time to teach him how to study effectively. Furthermore, he had never been taught about how the brain learns, how to overcome the challenges that students face in relation to learning, or the key factors known to influence learning outcomes (e.g., sleep, focus, attention, arousal levels) – information that has been proven to significantly enhance learning outcomes and cultivate resilience in the face of challenges.
Prompted by this conversation, I couldn't help but wonder: could this be an isolated case?
As a researcher and educator, I decided to delve deeper. I began by asking the children of my friends about their experiences with learning how to learn. Over the past two weeks, I've spoken to 12 children (aged 9 – 16), all attending different schools, and the results were truly disappointing. Except for a few children who received some very basic tips, not one of these young learners had received comprehensive instruction on how to learn, or the way the brain acquires knowledge.
Wanting to know more, I then reached out to several of my friends currently studying at various universities in Australia and the United Kingdom to ask if they had ever been taught how to learn. With very few exceptions, these university students had not been taught how to learn most effectively either. Considering that universities are places that are supposed to equip students with skills for their future pursuits – academic, vocational, and personal – I would think that learning how to learn should be one of the most important skills universities would focus on teaching, alongside critical thinking, analytical skills, communication skills, collaboration, and domain-specific knowledge.
These dual revelations are not meant to disparage our dedicated educators; rather, it's a call to action. It underscores an area where our education system and educators can profoundly impact students' lives. As such, it's time for schools and educators to recognize the importance of teaching students not only what to study but, critically, how to study or, as I often tell my students, how to learn.
Why is this so vital? Because the ability to learn effectively goes beyond passing exams; it's about nurturing a passion for learning and empowering students to become self-sufficient, independent thinkers and doers. It equips them with the skills needed to navigate an increasingly complex world and, in many cases, to realize their dreams, both present and future.
With all of this in mind, I hope more educators and learning institutions consider placing the science of learning how to learn at the forefront of their curriculums.
Thanks for reading.