The following reflection is based on a thinkpiece from the course What Future for Education , offered by the University of London, which I am taking on the Coursera platform. For me, these courses are not valuable only for the guidance they provide but also for the opportunities they create for me to really look into myself to find solutions and motivation within and to explain some things to myself, such as why some methods are not efficient, although I was taught in the same way and why some methods, which I discovered intuitively, work very well.
Today’s challenge is to reflect on:
- your previous learning experiences. Think about one particularly successful and one unsuccessful learning experience. Consider what were the conditions that made this experience successful or unsuccessful for you and what this tells you about your own preferred ways to learn.
Well, I guess that the key word when I think about these matters is TEACHER. I managed to boost my French from almost nothing to Advanced in only 4 years in high school because I had the support, and why not, the love of my French teacher. I brought my motivation to class with me, I wanted to speak and understand French as well as I did English. I am now a teacher of English and French and I have always been passionate about languages and reading, therefore I did not need any boost in motivation. What my teacher managed to provide me with was guidance first, and then, with the freedom to explore. She corrected enormous amounts of essays and translations, answered millions of questions and asked me how I was feeling today and how my family was doing. Learning with her felt like a journey I was taking on my own with the best and most trustworthy companion I could have had. I rarely failed to complete assignments because I was afraid to disappoint her. I did not feel subordinated, as is the case unfortunately in many classrooms where the teacher is an authority first and a leader second, where some simply lay out the map for you with a fixed learning itinerary already drawn, off of which you stray at your own risk.
Unfortunately, with all my interest in language study and learning, my experience with German was very different. I was learning in a large group in my last year at University. There was little if any free practice, no straying from the coursebook was encouraged or suggested. Little was asked of us and little was given back. I do not remember the name nor the face of my German teacher and this is a sad truth that I feel sorry to have to admit. Subsequently, all my attempts at learning German on my own have dwindled.
However, I blame this failure also on my own mind frame at the time. I was expecting more support from my teacher and when that did not happen I gave up the experience almost entirely.
I say this because a few years later it got into my head to read Spanish-language authors in the original. Since my Spanish knowledge was limited to a few words I picked up while my grandma was watching telenovelas in my childhood, I got myself books and dictionaries and began studying. But I grew impatient. After barely becoming acquainted with the present tense and with basic words, I threw myself head first into a volume by Jorge Luis Borges. Which I managed to read all the way to the end! Sure I had to stop to check the dictionary every few words and to read and reread almost every page, but I got it done. And by the time I had finished I realised that the syntax had settled down better in my head. My next challenge is to visit a Spanish-speaking place to test everything out.
Therefore, I can conclude that I can lean ideally if at least some of the following conditions are met:
- I learn very well on my own but I need to set myself an ultimate goal to keep me going through the process
- When learning with others and from others, I like to be given the chance to explore and to try out the things I learn
So, who knows, having realised this, I might plan a trip to Gemany soon and wipe the dust off my German textbooks.