• Laetitia deVries

What holds back learning?


What are some of the things that stop us from learning?


  • Fear of failure?

  • Fear of making mistakes?

  • Being seen as stupid?

  • Too many setbacks and challenges to want to keep going?

  • Not feeling like you are in a safe place to be able to make mistakes or ask the questions you need answers to?


Neuroscience of learning rule number 1, there is no learning without emotion! We remember emotionally charged experiences, good or bad. With extensive evidence to link emotions and learning this needs to be our first consideration when engaging a learner.


There are two ways to motivate a learner. We can give them rewards, stickers, or validation which we call extrinsic rewards. These rewards and feelings that go with them disappear once the goal is achieved. Intrinsic motivation is very powerful for stimulating satisfaction, self-confidence, self-worth, and the belief that they are learners, thinkers and contributors.


There are many ways to empower intrinsic motivation some of which are listed here today but start by asking;


How does that make you feel?

What are you most proud of?


Regardless of age or stage, helping a learner to connect their own emotions to their own efforts is a great start. Build up their language of emotions and to become emotionally aware of their own feelings and how we manage these.


We can all offer knowledge but we cannot make someone learn. That is a responsibility only a learner can take on. So, how do we engage a learner?


1. Ooze passion for learning and how incredible it feels once you have experienced a eureka moment. Love learning, be an advocate for learning and always model curiosity. What you give is what you get back.


2. Provide choices. Offer 2 or 3 choices in what to learn ( 2x tables or 3 x tables?) or how they learn ( window chalk, balloon writing or “show me what you know grid?). Making a choice or a decision is a considered response rather than just compliance.


3. Build relationships because learning will not happen without emotions. Take a moment to think about if you are feeling angry, frustrated and sad did you feel like learning anything new? Anxiety is a growing disability in our communities and a major block for learning to occur. Your amygdala (emotion brain) is considering how safe you are and how you will react. It is vital that we build a relationship of trust and positivity about our success and our failures.


“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

~ Maya Angelou


4. Deconstruct learning by discussing how to learn, the conditions we need to be in, the work required of us to learn, strategies for problem-solving and researching new ideas, strategies that help our brain to remember the stuff we just need to know, like spelling tricky words or times tables. Remember what works for us may not work for them so invite your learner to think about how they best learn and what ideas they have.


5. We use all of our brain all of the time even when we are asleep. Our brain needs a rich learning environment. With a billion brain cells with networks that are flexible and change according to experiences, we are all capable learners. It’s just learning how to learn that will make the difference. Help them to believe in themselves again.


6. Develop the understanding that learning does not happen to you and we cannot do it for you. You have to do the work to get the benefit. Only by trying and getting it wrong the first time and maybe getting it right the next time will we improve, build knowledge and understanding. Learning is not finding easy answers but enjoying the task and changing how we think about a new idea.


7. Ignite the mind! Pose a provocation or an open-ended question that is more than fact. An idea that makes you stop and think because you genuinely have no idea or you have conflicting ideas.


Building resilience, perseverance, persistence, and embracing curiosity are not just skills for learning they are Important life skills, university skills and career skills!


Every child deserves to be a superhero at learning. Lets show them how.


If you have a question about any points raised here today please make contact. I would love to hear form you. Your questions matter!!


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