Making Learning R.E.A.L.: Lasting

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January 6, 2021

Few of us can remember more than a handful of learning activities from our early elementary years. For most, there is only a project or field trip that can be recalled. While the foundational skills we learn (reading, writing, math, etc.) that we use everyday could be classified as lasting, I am more interested in creating lessons that go beyond the curriculum and are crucial to the overall development of a child.

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I define a lasting learning opportunity as follows:

A lasting learning opportunity is on-going. It is constantly challenging, shaping, and engaging the learner. It is explored through multiple perspectives. A lasting learning opportunity directly affects who the learner is becoming.

MAKING LEARNING R.E.A.L.

If you are looking to create a lasting learning opportunity, I encourage you to start by looking at the previous posts regarding making learning R.E.A.L. A lasting learning opportunity begins with one that is relatable, engaging, and accessible. If all those elements are in place, the foundation has been set.

A lasting learning opportunity prioritizes metacognition; thinking about thinking. It allows the learner an opportunity to practice self-reflection. The student is first taught how to reflect. They think about what they know, where they need clarification, their strengths, weaknesses, and what their next steps in learning are. Metacognition is a necessary tool for on-going learning. Rae Jacobson explains this concept thoroughly in the article, Metacognition: How Thinking About Thinking Can Help Kids.

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Teaching metacognitive skills helps students, “…become more independent learners and bolsters self-advocacy skills.”1 Students who are able to think about their thinking are also reported to have an increased ability to: overcome obstacles, adapt to new experiences, demonstrate resilience, and self-regulate.2

There are numerous free articles, guides, and resources that discuss metacognition in depth. One such resource is What Is Metacognition? A Guide for Educators by Jill Kiedaisch. Kiedaisch outlines several strategies for teaching this skill. She suggests following this sequence of exercises:

First: Ask students to write down what they do and do not know about the topic you are studying.

Next: Make the learning visible using concept mapping. “Every concept map begins with a focus question, which serves as the trunk of the concept tree…Key concepts associated with that question become the branches, further refined ideas and observations become the leaves, and so on.”

Then: Have students reflect at the end of a unit. A T-Chart with “What we thought…” and “What we know now…” is a useful tool.

Explore Kiedaisch’s article further for more advice on structuring your teaching in a way that encourages metacognition.

Making learning opportunities lasting is necessary if you are teaching beyond rote memorization. Lasting learning puts the student in control of their education by teaching them to become aware of who they are as learners. When our student engage in educational experiences that are relevant, engaging, accessible and lasting, we can be sure that we are making learning real.