How to Learn in School

Key message: Schools should impart good general knowledge and promote the personality of learners. The text lists ideas (hypotheses) that can improve learning at school.


(Also read on Learn-Study-Work "How to learn like experts")


What is learning?

Learning is the acquisition of knowledge or skills. Skills can be mental or motor skills. Mental skills include, for example, analytical-creative thinking, linguistic and social skills.


When learning is fun, it becomes easier for us.


When is learning at school fun and when is it not?

Learning at school is no fun if ...


1. the material you are supposed to learn is not explained well and you therefore

    don't understand it.
2. you have to learn too much material at once.
3. you have to learn lots of details that you know you'll forget anyway.
4. you are afraid of making mistakes.
5. you are afraid of expressing your own opinion.
6. the atmosphere in class is not good.


 In contrast:


Learning at school is fun when ...

  1. I realize that I am succeeding and getting better and better.
  2. I can use the knowledge I have learned to explain things that I have already encountered in everyday life.
  3. I have lots of friends at school and the teachers are friendly.
  4. I can do my homework quickly and well because the material was explained well in class.
  5. I have friends who help each other and with whom I can learn together.



to be continued ...



"There is good reason to suppose, however, that a strong drive would be precisely the wrong arrangement to secure a flexible, knowledgeable power of transaction with the environment. Strong drives vause us to learn certain lessons well, but they do not create maximum familarity with our surroundings. 

This point was demonstrated ... in some experiments by Yerkes and Dodson (1908). They showed that maximum motivation did not lead to the most rapid solving of problems, especially if the problems were complex. For each problem there was an optimum level of motivation, neither the highest nor the lowest, and the optimum was lower for more complex tasks." (White, R. W. (1959). Motivation reconsidered: The concept of competence. Psychological Review, 66(5), 297–333)



"The first stage of sport involvement, the sampling years, occurred between the ages of 6 and 13 for all the participants.

Parents provide opportunities for their children to enjoy sport. Parents of children in the sampling years were responsible for initially getting their children interested in sport and allowing them to sample a wide range of enjoyable activities without focusing on intense training.
Some important elements of playing sport during the sampling years are
that it involves the child’s active participation, is voluntary and pleasurable ..." /
Côté, J. (1999). The influence of the family in the development of talent in sport. The sport psychologist, 13(4), 395-417)


If we have to learn a lot of details about a topic we don't have much prior knowledge about, then we know that we will forget these details anyway. If, on top of that, we don't see how this detailed knowledge can be useful to us, then learning is no fun.