Jun 162011

Learn: There’s No Such Word as Can’t

 Written by Sarah Chapman on March 7, 2011


Even the unwilling can be helped to learn, says Dr. Peter Honey, a world-famous learning guru who co-authored the Honey and Mumford Learning Styles Questionnaire. Honey gave an entertaining and thought-provoking presentation at a recent meeting of the Charity Learning Consortium. He used the analogy of a horse to illustrate his point, turning on its head the assumption that “you can lead a horse to water, but cannot make it drink.” You could, he suggested, make sure the horse was really thirsty, perhaps ensure there were plenty of other horses drinking already to entice the horse to join them, or make the water somehow more attractive.

“You can’t force horses to drink, but you can make it as easy as possible for them to do so,” he said. Equally, he pointed out, you can maximize the probability of learning by engineering a successful learning environment.

Honey challenged assumptions in this way several times. “Of course, the Learning Styles Questionnaire isn’t sufficient on its own to promote effective learning”— a learner’s motivation, external pressures and his or her environment are all not taken into account. He also challenged another strongly held belief — that learning should be fun: “I’ve never bought into the idea that every learning experience should be jolly,” he said. “Don’t we in fact learn from mistakes (which can be painful), and could there not be richer learning through adversity?

“There is no correlation between the popularity of something and how much you learn. If it’s not so enjoyable, you may have to put more effort in and ultimately learn more as a result.” But he recommended using a “force-and-support” principal: If you are going to enforce learning — for whatever reason — make sure there is support.

Honey is founder of Peter Honey Publications Ltd., which extolls 12 values that apply to learning.

Among them:
>> Learning, as a process, supersedes all others.
>> Everyone has a basic right to learn and develop and be supported and encouraged as they do so.
>> Since it is just as easy to learn wrong things as it is to learn right things, what constitutes good learning needs to be debated and agreed.
>> You are what you learn; all you know, all your skills and all your beliefs have been learned.
>> Learning is a skill which, like any other skill, you can develop and improve. Learning to learn is your ultimate life skill.
>> Everything that happens to you, at work or elsewhere, provides you with an opportunity to learn.
>> Learning is only effective when you convert it into improved performance.

—For more information, visit the Websites www.peterhoney.org and/or www.charitylearning.org


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