PO Box: AC# 2244
Rhonda K. Holton
Physics Teaching FellowAmherst College
How Do You Learn?
Knowing how you learn improves the student-teacher relationship. When attending CU-Boulder, I took an Observation and Instrumentation course with the Astronomy Department. The professor was clearly knowledgeable and worked hard to help his students learn, but he rarely wrote anything on the board. He spoke about how light interacted with various pieces of the telescope; he expounded on the relative abundances of elements in the universe; and he told us about the tricks of the astronomy trade. Through all of this, however, the professor never wrote on the board. Without that visual stimulus, I was left in the dust. You see, I learn visually and kinesthetically. When speaking, I draw things out, and I gesture. When I'm stuck on an idea, I scribble and flail about in a rather ridiculous manner. I needed to see his meaning because his spoken word was not enough. Luckily, I spent quite some time in my early college career becoming intimately familiar with myself and with my learning style. Two weeks into the class, I raised my hand and simply said, "I learn visually. Could you please write that on the board?" Although I had to occasionally remind him to write out his thoughts, I never had a problem with that class again.
Sometimes, all it takes it knowing a little about yourself. If you're having problems in a class, try approaching it from a different angle. Write it out. Explain it to someone else. Build a contraption. Watch a video about it. Sing it. Dance it. Whatever you need to do. Discover how you learn. If you know what needs to change to improve your learning, then you start to lead your own education. Most professors would love to help you, but they can't do it alone. We're here to guide you, but, as a student, you're in charge. Lead the way.
To learn more, here are some places to start:
Rarely does anyone fit neatly into on classification. I am both visually and kinesthetically motivated. I prefer to see something done and then work through it myself. I employ drawings, and I move objects around. Although I do like to bounce ideas off other people, I prefer to work alone when it comes to putting everything together. This is because I need time to convince myself before I continue discussing the topic with others. As such, I have elements of both social and solitary learning, but each have their own place in my learning methods.
If you have any questions, please feel free to email me.
The Education Revolution
These two TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) talks by Sir Ken Robinson discuss the problems with the current educational system. Please remember that, as a student (especially a college student), you have the ability to help shape your education. If you find that your current academic life is not well-suited to your needs, please speak with your academic mentor to work out a plan to better assist you. Everyone learns differently, and by pursuing interests you are passionate about in a manner well suited to your learning methods, you can carve out a brilliant future for yourself.