Learning is nothing more than a process of acquiring information that are then organised by our brain and successively turned into actions.
Therefore, it can be stated that learning is a process composed of mainly 3 phases:
- Acquisition: the individual takes in information
- Organisation: the individual uses different memorising techniques to arrange what has been heard or seen
- Recall: the individual uses different sensory filters to explain to someone what has learnt
We can now apply these 3 phases, hence the entire learning process, to our academic system. Considering that, on average, school classes last 55 minutes, this time could be divided as follows:
- 40 minutes of work: after this period of time, our brain starts losing ability to focus
- 5 minutes of recovery: rest is needed to allow our brain to organise newly-acquired information
- 10 minutes of review: our brain begins forgetting the information learnt within 1 hour since the moment of acquisition, hence it is extremely useful to leave pupils time and space to explain what they have learnt.
Time and phases are to be considered two common elements that influence all pupils’ learning process. This means that, if pupils over the whole school day are constantly asked to face new information, hour after hour, it is extremely difficult that this information will effectively be transformed into actually “learnt” concepts.
However, the learning process is not only objective but also subjective, hence it differs among pupils based on their abilities and inclination to learn. Pupils during their growing process are influenced by 4 factors: two related to own personal experience and two external factors.
The inside is made of personal experiences and expectations that one creates. Inclination to learn is influenced by how each pupil anchors to and categorises learning experiences. The more positive the anchoring, the more fruitful the learning process will be. Expectations play a fundamental influencing role on motivation. For example, when learning is associated to earning a good grade and this does not occur, motivation to learn immediately disappears. This is why it is important to focus the learning experience on the experience itself.
The outside is instead formed by culture (of the family and the community as a whole) and environment in which pupils grow up. If we know that the pupil learns mostly by imitating, this means that the pupil’s living context is not inclined to personal and professional growth, hence it is not likely that the pupil will approach the learning process with openness and motivation.
A very important factor is also the environment in which the learning experience occurs, hence the classroom, the school, classmates and teachers. The more welcoming, safe and protected the environment, the more pupils will open up towards learning.
To sum up, every time we approach teaching, we need to keep in mind that, if we want our pupils to actually learn, it is necessary to
- Respect the learning phases
- Respect timing of the learning phases
- Remember that pupils open up towards learning only if inside and outside factors are aligned and aiming towards growth.