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Pedagogy: How good a learner are you?

how good a leaner are you

What differentiates the ordinary from the extraordinary? The former focus on the outcome, while the latter on the process. There are different types of learners and all can get better provided they focus on the process. A good education should therefore be more about the process of learning than the subjects learnt or syllabus covered


-Prof M M Pant

By the time a learner completes 12 years of schooling, around 10,000 hours of classroom teaching would have been completed in 10 subjects. The grade card records the marks obtained in various examinations, but it does not say ‘how good a learner’ he or she is.

An infant in contrast, doesn’t learn to walk, by being told how to do so; rather by continuously Prof M M Pant attempting to do so, all the way from standing up and falling down to finally walking on its own. In fact, for most babies it takes about 1,000 hours of practice from the moment they can stand to walking unassisted.

If these 10,000 hours at school had been devoted to ’the deliberate practice of learning’ as suggested by Malcolm Gladwell, then all our school leavers would be highly accomplished learners, and our country could reap the benefits of its demography.

In this learning journey, the learner passes through the following four stages, even if it is not clear to the learner that this is happening.

  1. Unconscious Incompetence: In the unconscious incompetence stage, the learner isn’t aware that a skill or knowledge gap exists.
  1. Conscious Incompetence: In conscious incompetence, the learner becomes aware of the

skill or knowledge gap and understands the importance of acquiring the new skill. It’s in this stage that learning can begin.

  1. Conscious Competence: In conscious competence, the learner knows how to use the skill or perform the task, but doing so requires deliberate practice, conscious thought and hard work.
  2. Unconscious Competence: In unconscious competence, the individual has enough experience with the skill that he or she can perform it so easily they do it unconsciously.

Ordinary people focus on the ‘outcome’ but extraordinary people focus on the ‘processes’.

said that ‘Desire and curiosity are the two eyes with which we see the world’.

  • Good learners pursue understanding diligently: They demonstrate perseverance and grit. They also have good information seeking skills.
  • Display grit: Good learners recognize that learning isn’t always fun and they persevere and display a lot of grit and motivation.

Inspirational stories of the coolie on the Kochi railway station, Sreenath K, who qualified for the Kerala Public Services Commission using the free Wi-Fi at the Ernakulam railway station is a testimony to qualities of a good learner. IAS topper Anudeep Dhurishetty declared that YouTube is the best University.

Cognitive skills

If we want a measured improvement in the ability to learn, then we have to deploy a measure of ‘learn-ability’.

In a scale of how good a learner are you, level 9 is the highest, labelled as expert learner, and then there are lower levels on the journey to become an expert learner.

Research has shown that cognitive skills are a determining factor of an individual’s learning ability. Cognitive skills are mental skills that are used in the process of acquiring knowledge. According to Oxford, these are the skills that “separate the good learners from the average learners.” In essence, when cognitive skills are strong, learning is fast and easy. When cognitive skills are weak, learning becomes a struggle. The most important cognitive skills are: concentration, perception, memory and logical thinking.

Level of learner

In a scale of how good a learner are you, level 9 is the highest, labelled as expert learner, and then there are lower levels on the journey to become an expert learner.

They can be measured by a Test instrument, and it is proved that a person should be able to move up one level in about a month of serious effort and training. The attributes of learners at various stages are listed below:

Level 9

Expert Learner – Has fully operational command of all the five major learning strategies: Apprentice, Incidental, Discovery, Inductive and Deductive.

One is fully competent in all the six information skills of task definition, information seeking strategies, location and access, use of information, synthesis and evaluation; also capable to transfer learning to others as well.

Level 8

Very Good learner – Has good command of the five learning strategies with only occasional unsystematic errors, misunderstandings may occur in tricky situations and handles complex reasoning as well.

One is adept in at least four of the information skills and familiar with the remaining 2.

Level 7

Good learner – Has familiarity with three learning strategies, and familiarity with two others though with occasional inaccuracies, inappropriacies and misunderstandings in some situations. One generally handles complex concepts well and understands detailed reasoning.

Level 6

Competent Learner – Has some command over all five strategies despite some inaccuracies, difficulties and misunderstandings. He/she can use and understand fairly complex concepts, particularly in familiar situations.

Level 5

Modest Learner – Has partial knowledge of the learning strategies, coping with overall learning challenges in most situations, though is likely to make many mistakes. Learner should be able to handle basic learning needs in own field.

Level 4

Limited Learner – Basic competence is limited to familiar learning strategies, has frequent problems in understanding and expression and is not able to navigate complex concept maps. One has some information gathering abilities but not consistently demonstrated.

Level 3

Extremely limited Learner – Acquires learning in very familiar situations, adopts at most two strategies and very limited information usage skills.

Level 2

Very low level learner – No real learning is possible except for the most basic information that has been ‘spoon-fed’ and has great difficulty in understanding spoken words and written text.

Level 1

Non Learner – Essentially has no ability to learn beyond possibly a few isolated concepts and random pieces of information.

With lifelong learning on one’s own becoming an imperative for living a fulfilling life, it is important that this learning ability is well developed at school by embedding it in the pedagogy.

If there is a deficiency then special interventions by way of personalised coaching and mentoring can help acquire the desired learning levels.

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