Learning to Forget

On the BBC news last week there was some criticism of A Levels (the pre-university qualifications used in the UK). One university admissions spokesperson said that in some cases courses had become too ‘modular’.

Some of the courses have become too modularised. The focus is on learning a chunk of content then testing that content immediately afterwards. This approach has resulted in an approach that encourages ‘learning to forget’.

I think anyone involved in e-learning would recognise this behaviour of ‘learning to forget’ but instead of modules lasting three months ours last just 30 minutes!

Of course taking a 30 minute e-learning module on Time Management or even a 3 month A Level Module on Oilfield Geology isn’t going to result in deep learning. It can only prepare the ground for true learning by application later – most learning interventions focus on this exposition phase with maybe a little activity in the instruction phase (see Clive Shepherd’s post). Only occasionally do we take it to the higher phases – guided discovery or exploration.

Learning to forget is likely to characterise much of our ‘learning’ in today’s information rich environment. Increasingly we will be exposed to vast quantities of information and knowledge. Whether we simply scan that information or embed it deeper build on it and synthesise from it will depend upon our motivations, needs and preferences.

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