How to overcome the barriers to learning

Another sad end to a great week of extracts from Terry Sharrock‘s book ‘Embedding English and Maths‘.

I know you’re all probably excited to get on with your fun weekend activities but have a read of this before you call it a day- a great extract discussing how to positively encourage a learner that lacks the confidence in English and maths.

A history of negative experiences

Linked to their lack of confidence, you may find that many of your learners have a history of negative experiences with maths and English. Try this activity, perhaps as part of your con­tinuous professional development or at a team meeting.

Practical ask

Work in pairs. The first person should describe their best-ever learning experience. It could be any learning. It does not have to be confined to formal education. It could be learning to ride a bike or learning to swim.

Allow five minutes to talk about that experience to your partner. Your partner should listen and ask questions to find out more about the experience, and try to pick out the key features of what made it such a good experience, noting these down in words or short phrases.

Swap over. Your partner now has five minutes to explain their best learning experience, while you listen, ask questions and note down the key words or phrases used to explain what made it such a good experience.

Compare notes and create a joint list of the key components of a really good learning experi­ence. (See Appendix 1 for some of the key components that regularly feature in this activity.)

Finally, take five minutes each to talk about your worst learning experience. Pick out the key components of your worst learning experience and compare them with your best.

In general, the key points that arise from bad learning experiences are:

  • not understanding what was being explained;
  • not seeing the relevance of what they are learning to practical applications;
  • poor teaching in terms of impatient teachers who do not explain or cannot understand why the learner doesn’t ‘get it’;
  • experience of sarcasm and demeaning comments about their abilities (and even public humiliation), leading to feelings of inadequacy.

Such experiences can have a lasting and profound effect on learners’ self-image. These (often disengaged) learners need help to develop a new self-image where they can be successful.

It may be the end of the week but on Monday we’ve got another blog entry from Taylor Cornes so watch this space by following us on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

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