A Lot to Learn


It is said that learning breeds future success, and learning is there to benefit subsequent performance, but does it really prepare for future events? The school system thinks so. Investment in learning is a guarantee for achievement later in life, so runs the claim. It may be so in general but, actually, later in life, do you still use or apply what you learned some time ago? – Only bits and pieces probably, while most is gone or in oblivion. What you learn tends to be forgotten – that is a fact of life. This is not to say that all learning is futile, vanity, or worthless. What then is the true nature of learning? – without false promises. It could very well be that the gain from learning effort could just be specific and particular (1).

Consider a setting in which you have to learn, acquire something yourself, a skill of some sort, say a certain teaching skill, let us assume self-monitoring, and then have to teach others to acquire that skill as well , say your students. What would yield your learning? Precise prompts on how you are doing, i.e., specific feedback on the steps you take or more generic, overall hints on how you are doing? And what about trickle down effects on your students? Would they be helped with specific or common suggestions? And what about effects later on, after a while, say a few months later – what would remain from your learning effort?

A study in a teacher education setting looked into this and indicated that what was kept is what was specifically prompted and even then the gain was likely to be lost later on. We simply cannot assume that what is learned stays; certainly not when only loosely stimulated.

May be for this reason learning needs repetition (2), going over it again and again  – Think of learning a foreign language, or practicing a music piece. This will  give a new meaning to the phrase”  There is a lot to learn’


Bracha Kramarski &Zehavit Kohen (2017). Promoting preservice teachers’ dual self-regulation roles as learners and as teachers: effects of generic vs. specific prompts Metacognition and Learning  August 2017, Volume 12, Issue 2, pp 157–191



  1. https://blog.keras.io/the-limitations-of-deep-learning.html


  1. http://www.readingbrightstart.org/articles-for-parents/lets-repetition-important-learning/



Learn to Play


Quality time with your kids – what does it mean? You get home after a busy day (this is a gender neutral statement): off-loading, exchanging daily burdens at the kitchen table, greeting the kids, (vice versa); checking the mail, then what …? May be before bedtime a small reading session with the kids. Before that most likely sitting on the coach to watch tele. It can’t be Sunday every day. Let us be real: Quality time is a created construct to sanctuary activity with your children, but actually it is a highly fabricated, almost unnatural creation: “sorry, you are out of quality time; beat it” .  Admitted, it is better than no time. In a lot of homes almost no intergenerational interaction above the level of directives occurs. Quality time at least gives some indication on the need for interaction. It is the nature of interaction that counts, not time per se.  Especially with young children interaction comes down to inter-activity, doing things together, like in play. For adults, parents as well, this is a difficult shift to make. They are not kids anymore. For some, play seems a regression, an ineptitude with which one feels uncomfortable. Parents’ beliefs about play interfere with a full engagement in play.

At least this was found in a US study validating an assessment instrument to gauge parental attitude toward play. It turned out that pointing to prevailing beliefs about interaction through play with your child affected the self-awareness of these parents and moderated a positive disposition towards play. Thus, supporting the study’s intent to construct and disseminate a belief measurement on parental attitudes about play.

“ My learning is playing, my playing is learning” , as the poet once proclaimed. Playing is serious business then? Playing in function of..? Is it for that reason that parents should interact  – because it is quality time? Playing together with an adult is different from playing by oneself, or with a peer. Comenius in his pedagogical tale “Labyrint of the World”  (2)  warns against putting too much wisdom into a child and defends the usefulness of time to experiment, to roam; that is to value play for reasons of its own, not in purpose of. There are so many ways in which parents can interact with children; do not take away play from the children.


Expanding home visiting outcomes: Collaborative measurement of parental play beliefs and examination of their association with parents’ involvement in toddler’s learning Patricia H. Manza, Catherine B. Bracaliello  in Early Childhood Research Quarterly 36 (2016) 157–167

http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ecresq.2015.12.015  0885-2006/© 2015 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved



  1. http://www.lifehack.org/articles/featured/5-ways-to-spend-time-with-your-kids-when-you-have-no-time.html

2. http://www.labyrint.cz/en/contents


Right From The Start


Practice based education has a lot of advocates. Training in the field, learning from practitioners, getting to know best practices, engagement with real work, understanding the workplace better, it all is considered highly desirable. Education has to prepare for life (sed vitea discimus); therefore, immersion into authentic, realistic conditions is called for to let students acquire competencies needed for their forthcoming professional life. Many partnerships between educational institutions and businesses are up-and-coming. But do they benefit students and their learning (1) ? It cannot hurt to pose this question from time to time to see if liaisons between schools and companies ‘work’. In essence the exchange between school and work when it comes to student learning revolves around the dilemma of preparation vs. participation. Should a student lay the groundwork first before starting to explore realistic settings; or is it better, more relevant, and wise to step right on into rich environments to learn the basics? During a course of study, normally, a kind of balanced and gradient relation is built-in. Leaving the how aside, the question remains: do student benefit.

An interesting study collected student experiences with immersion into the world of work. It turned out the relationship is full of fears and snags. Among the most worrisome to students is that the workplace is not fitted for inquiries and try out behavior. Workload is also too high to have time to learn. On top of that students have problems understanding the full context of a project in which they get involved. These were three of the main recurrent issues addressed by students .

The point is not to criticize partnerships between school and work; they may be desirable for a lot of reasons. It is more that the workplace is not necessarily a place of learning when it comes to student learning (2). The way work experiences are framed as learning experiences (by students) and how instructors interact with students to create such experiences is what is important here. And that is precisely often the weak part: i.e., to defend your learning agenda as a student against the priorities of work. True partnerships exist right from the start between school, work, AND student.

Source The Relevance of Problem-based Learning for Policy Development in University-Business CooperationSue Rossano, Arno Meerman, Tobias Kesting & Thomas Baaken European Journal of Education, Vol. 51, No. , 2016 DOI: 10.1111/ejed.12165



  1. https://www.vu.edu.au/transcript/student-examples-of-learning-in-the-workplace-and-community-transcript
  2. http://www.nursingtimes.net/roles/nurse-educators/skills-to-ensure-success-in-mentoring-and-other-workplace-learning-approaches/5010479.fullarticle

Run Away


Life is full of risks. The sky may fall one your head; your car swallowed by a sinkhole. There is even the risk of not taking the risk (in finding your fortune, or happiness in life). Some people avoid risk, some seek the thrill of it. There are therapeutic programs to help you deal with risk (1) and economic calculations to manage risks (4). Nevertheless, risk is what we can not control; a boiling mix of fear, fate, and unlikely occurrences. Fact is you have to life with it. Teachers too (3). Now, most of us would contend that teaching is not a very risky profession or rooted in uncertainties. Classroom life has its regularities and its (more or less) planned flow of activity. Could it be then that persons who like to avoid risks in their lives have to some extent a fascination for the profession? This issue was studied, from an economic perspective.
The study compared prospective teachers and economics students using a standard lottery task and looked at their risk preferences. It turned out that the future teachers were risk averse. The authors interpret their findings by saying that “policy makers should take into account teacher risk characteristics when considering reforms that may clash with risk preferences”
Now, two strange leaps occur in this study. First, and you do not have to be a statistician to notice, it may have been that another element was involved. For instance by observing that the group of teacher candidates was composed of females (75%) and the comparison group had 62% males. Could this have been an alternative interpretation for risk preference? Secondly, and more importantly, the study seems to suggest that policy makers should bear in mind that education reforms should not be too risky for teachers. Or, even worse, that teachers may obstruct reform because they feel it is too hazardous for them. The ultimate consequence might be: no risky reforms in education. Truly, a risky advice (2) .


Daniel H. Bowen, Stuart Buck, Cary Deck, Jonathan N. Mills & James V. Shuls (2015) Risky business: an analysis of teacher risk preferences, Education Economics, 23:4, 470-480,
To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09645292.2014.966062

summary 21

1. http://elitedaily.com/life/motivation/14-risks-everyone-needs-take-life/
2. http://www.marcandangel.com/2013/10/20/10-risks-happy-people-take-every-day/
3. http://archive.ajpe.org/aj6904/aj690474/aj690474.pdf
4. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_swan_theory

Full Steam Ahead

03princess of norway Teachers resemble performing artists. Teachers too have to get on stage and have to deliver an engaging ‘thing’ before a critical and sometimes distracted audience. Performing can be extremely exhausting. You have to empower yourself with enough energy to give performance a go. The moment before “getting on” can be very stressful. Even experienced performing artists, dancers, show masters, actors, musicians (1) admit they have (often strong) emotions of anxiety and fear before entry for an audience. The strange thing about it is that it does not lessen or disappear with practice or experience. It stays with you no matter how celebrate you are. So how is this with teachers, especially with beginning teachers when they have to prepare for class?
A thorough and enlightening study from Germany gives more background to this. The six authors looked at the interplay of emotional exhaustion, the feeling of self efficacy (“ I am doing fine”) and the professional knowledge of beginning teachers. It turned out that the feeling of being burned out was high among these teachers but it gradually decreased over time. Being exhausted affected their sense of self efficacy (negatively). And unfortunately, being a well-prepared and knowledgeable professional did not help to reduce the dominant feeling of exhaustion (although some signs in the study indicated that it may help a bit).
To deliver requires energy, a lot. Being good, experienced, or qualified does not add much weight to abandon or overcome the exhaustion that is part of being a professional. Knowing this and accepting it might relief a bit the feelings of anxiety that accompany the act of delivery (2) . Apparently performing under pressure is the natural and normal habitat for professionals. But it does not appear that it is being regarded that way that much, both among the professional and the audience. Giving full steam ahead, however, would also imply to accept the energy it consumes.

Beginning teachers’ efficacy and emotional exhaustion: Latent changes, reciprocity, and the influence of professional knowledge By Theresa Dicke, Philip D. Parker, Doris Holzberger, Olga Kunina-Habenicht,
Mareike Kunter, & Detlev Leutnera Contemporary Educational Psychology 41 (2015) 62–72
Link: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cedpsych.2014.11.003 0361-476X/© 2014 Published by Elsevier Inc.


1. http://musicpsychology.co.uk/performing-music-under-stress/
2. http://www.express.co.uk/life-style/health/543974/Stress-can-reduce-mental-ability-to-a-child-s

One Size Fits All


School-time for life-time it was said in one of the previous blogs. But how can that be? Do not elderly people learn different from that what is asked in schools (1); is it not obvious that learning at the workplace is not school-like at all? The issue of differences in learning has been raised before: Can there be one theory of learning for all; or should we diversify? The issue has not been resolved however.
Back in the thirties, in the US Hull and Spencer, and later Hilgard disputed about a General Theory of Learning; In Europe a theory of learning was considered relevant only in as far as it supported pedagogy (Herbart, Kohnstamm, and mostly Kerschensteiner (2).
The article by Tam picks up on that long standing issue . Most of the arguments pro and con can be found here. For a distinctive way of viewing how people learn pleads the following: there are identifiable periods across the life span; changes in society call for targeted learning; not everyone experiences the same typical learning problems; and different people have different motivations.
On the other hand one could argue that: learning is a core human activity from birth to old age; in essence based on curiosity and built on experience. In all its varied forms learning is “engaging in direct encounter and then purposefully reflect upon, validate, transform, give personal meaning to and seek to integrate their ways of knowing “(cited from Mercken 2010 by Tam p. 815).
Now there lies certainly an interest in the above dispute when we embed it in the demand for Life Long Learning (3). Is “school-time for life-time” to be equated with this? I would not say so. The LLL demand is primarily one for employability and adaptation of the workforce to technological and management development (4). An alternate viewpoint is captured with the idea of “school-time for life-time” which has to do with “educating minds “ (5) and that is based in Mercken’s classification and characterization of exploring, searching, studying and valuing what matters in one’s life. And that goal fits us all.

Maureen Tam (2014) A distinctive theory of teaching and learning for older learners: why and why not?, International Journal of Lifelong Education, 33:6, 811-820,
link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02601370.2014.972998



1 http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/0380127860120301#.VKuVvHv-kaY
2. http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/13636820.2012.733514?journalCode=rjve20#.VKvQxXv-kaY
3 http://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED411774
4 http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/13600820600929812#.VKuY9Hv-kaY
5 http://books.google.nl/books?hl=nl&lr=&id=9F8DpyHlFCEC&oi=fnd&pg=PR9&dq=egan+educated+minds&ots=gEXlbMilvO&sig=aDLPyHMd5u6H_Z-7HenlWln6kI4#v=onepage&q=egan%20educated%20minds&f=false