In the pursuit of an all- encompassing definition, I have come to reflect upon the types of ways to learn George Roberts (2013) was discussing, and the tendency to use them as labels we identify with. He warned about how it should not be the case, as they are not types of learners, but are ways, sort of a methodology. I was honestly affected when he said that because I found myself doing just that as I was listening to him in a video, preaching how we should not judge surface learning to deep learning to strategic learning as being better than the others, as I just realized that we indeed employ a variety of these when we are trying to make sense of something, like he said.
I formally studied Mandarin in a university during my stay in Shanghai in 2012, and as a huge subscriber of deep learning, I refused to memorize, use mnemonics or employ any other language study techniques because I believed I need to create stories, experience it, associate it and draw it, comparing with how I learned my virtually non-existent Vietnamese on the streets. I cannot explain how I am not able to learn almost anything when some people in class are already attempting to speak in their broken sentences. Real shame that during my last semester when I was slowly integrating more strategies in learning the language was also the time I had to end my studies. This I see now is a perfect example of what Roberts meant by the need to use both surface and deep learning, and in the study of a new language it is inevitable not to do so. My other classmates probably operated in their own unique way on how to combine both, but I think the key here is self awareness to be able to strike the perfect mix of these learning types. If you know you learn by sitting yourself down and memorizing 5 words at a time, then so be the chunks. I know a classmate who completes pictures out of the Chinese characters to be able to remember them, and their meanings (as what they are).
In my forum post, I have heavily mentioned Huitt (2011) and my support in his recognition of biological maturity and learning as factors that can cause change in a person. Most of my emphasis was on how this can be manipulated by teachers on how to become good instructors and facilitators thru curriculum, but what I missed was an elephant in my room of current experience. See, I teach preschool children how to read, and some of these parents will force barely 2- year old to enroll even though most of these kids wouldn’t know how to receive instructions first. Children of this age will mostly prance around and never sit still, or have an attention span so short you won’t even finish your sentence, and I say it all the time: “your child may not have the maturity just yet to be able to figure out that reading involves a left-to-right- book”, or the more popular “Let us wait for after his third birthday”, and true enough, the child makes leaps in his/ her education past a certain age and there was an obvious change in demeanor and even behavior sometimes. What is the secret? Learn that age. Students still vary in their rate of maturation, but the average child has this sort of magic age. It’s quite brilliant, really.
In the end I think what learning to us could may well be influenced by how we approach teaching and how we study. Someone who might be an advocate of the importance of higher order thinking skills will possibly define learning as the ability to contextualize, create change and practice; whereas a teacher keen on technical details, making you remember everything could possibly put meat on the acquisition of knowledge side. I have initially defined it using concepts that are personal to me, and what I will consider learning among my students. So in that case, we might have actually revealed a little bit about ourselves through what we believe is real learning.