Recent curriculum reform being implemented at Harvard Medical School showing their students and faculty how to learn, along with research in The National Academies Press book How People Learn reveals that most learning in our schools is rote, lacks creativity, higher level thinking and in no way fosters an individual’s ability to understand how to learn.

Most certainly, students in the typical classroom environment do not understand how to learn or how to become lifelong learners.

The bottom line – students can’t keep up in the information age and there is more to learn in school than teachers can possibly teach.

Brains are being stifled by low level expectations in what and how they are expected to learn.

In fact, what teachers teach, often becomes obsolete before students graduate.

how to learn

Learn: Photo credit Stuart Miles

 Learning experts and research from the world over all agree that our schools are not teaching students how to learn and think for themselves, nor how to become lifelong learners.

“I believe we can raise the standard of education if we consciously teach learning and thinking skills at the same time as we teach curriculum content. Because what you know can easily become out of date, knowing how to learn is a skill for life,” writes accelerated learning expert, and best-selling author Colin Rose in a recent book by Pat Wyman, Amazing Grades: 101 Best Ways to Improve Your Grades Faster.

How to Learn Must Incorporate More Than Just What to Learn

Researchers at many universities continue to realize that how to learn is a critical component as they rethink how courses are taught.  

how to learn

Global Learning. Credit: By sheelamohan

Nearly all research available shows that students cannot possibly learn and process information they receive in the typical lecture situation. Schools are beginning to understand that the world has changed substantially and the how to learn process must change at the same time. The “what” students learn is in fact important, but teaching students to develop lifelong learning skills and strategies helps them understand how to learn and become independent learners.

“We want students to develop skills and habits of mind that encourage lifelong, self-directed learning, but we don’t do a lot to prepare them for that,” said Richard Schwartzstein, director of the Academy at Harvard Medical School and Ellen and Melvin Gordon Professor of Medical Education at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

During Harvard University’s Medical Education Day in 2013, their faculty members learned about how to learn and how to teach lifelong learning as curriculum reform loomed in the Medical School that would affect both faculty and students. 

An associate professor of medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital agreed.

“There is a lot more to learn than we have time to teach,” said Alberto Puig, associate professor of medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, who planned the Harvard’s course with Randall King, Harvard Medical School’s Harry C. McKenzie Professor of Cell Biology.

“If the old adage in medicine is true that “everything we teach you today will be obsolete tomorrow,” Puig said, then above all “we need to teach people how to learn to think for themselves.”

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