All I can remember from my school days is my educational gaps ». An amusing balance sheet by the painter Oskar Kokoschka. But also a sobering one. Brain researcher Gerhard Roth adds: “All tests of the knowledge that young people still have five years after leaving school show that the school system has an efficiency that tends towards zero”.
And most people will come to similar results if they take a self-critical look at their own school biography. What has you not stuffed into yourself – and how little of it has stuck. Whereby “got stuck” – that is actually the linguistic tip of the wrong iceberg. Because the aim should not be to learn things by heart in such a way that they “get stuck”. It is not enough to know (and to be able to write it down in a test): «Nouns are capitalized». It’s all about the pudding sample: The proof of the pudding is in the eating. In other words: School learning is successful when it proves itself in everyday situations. Those who are professionally fit can do more than write the right things on the right sheet of paper at the right time.
- School-based learning has to go under the surface, get under the skin, so to speak. The keyword is “processing depth”.
- Whoever listens to an explanation about shortening fractions is less involved in a processing process than whoever solves corresponding problems himself.
- And anyone who explains to others using examples how to shorten fractions is even more involved.
- Processing depth therefore means: the extent of the cognitive activities with which a learner understands the things that are at stake.
Learning is more effective, the better information is linked to previous knowledge and experience. For this purpose the learners themselves have to become active, deal creatively and variably with things, recognize relationships and patterns, establish suitable connections and refer to the world in which they live.
Understanding, generating learning is therefore anything but a spectator sport. Generating means: creating, constructing, producing, shaping things. The prerequisite for this is the demand for personal understanding. And curiosity is a driving force behind it, an interest in the world, in what is going on around you. Because low-engaging learning activities are usually low-paying attention. And with correspondingly superficial and short-term results. If any.
It is exactly what learners should experience as often as possible – that great feeling of really having understood and grasped something, recognizing connections and knowing how to help. Such aha experiences are quasi the emotional reward for the involvement. The brain sends its messenger substances on a journey. When the penny drops, dopamine goes up. And that’s good. It is when learning is really fun.
Learning therefore means doing something with data, converting it and transforming it into meaning. Make things your own. Or to put it another way: make something of your own out of something strange. Learning is therefore a process of transformation. Transforming, in turn, means: giving information an internal and external form, making it understandable for yourself.
It is therefore clear that the focus is not on quantity, but on the amount of “treated” and “had” material. It’s the quality of the workmanship that makes the difference. The rule of thumb: less is more. But less input does not necessarily lead to better output. What it takes is more putput.
That quickly degenerates into work. Effort, performance, inquiring curiosity, dealing with resistance – at first glance that does not mean pure joy. But only at first glance. The joy of learning is not a consumer product. It needs a kind of incubation period. That means: it develops depending on the quality of the discussion. In other words: professional fitness is based on the joy of doing, the joy of performance. At most, the decimal point rules can be swiped over on the display. But not understanding.