The thing about learning is we forget; #etmooc

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The thing about learning is we forget… Jamshed Bharucha

Thank you, Gabriel Bunster, so much for leading me to this TED TALK by Jamshed Bharucha. I have been pondering this dilemma for years as I am required to post and teach specific objectives the students will learn. Yet, as I understand this TED Talk, contrary to current pedagogy, when working in context, the whole process is part of the learning and builds context so that the learning is remembered.

Learning by skills provides no context and while the initial “learning” test indicates a high level of learning, the retention of those skills is not as successful as when learning within a context– a project — a “doing” of the process.

When reading with dialogue about the story as in a Socratic Seminar, the reader builds context and responds with inference and generalizations based on the text. The learning is practicing the complex skills of a good reader. The learning IS learning the more complex skills and the basic skills by “doing” the reading and dialogue. This has more impact on retention and learning than saying, “Today we are practicing our ‘inference’ skills.”

In my own experience, this is what works with kids: the project requires students to practice and apply, and therefore, learn the skills. It is the process of learning by doing holistically that allows students to improve and grow with even complex skills. Currently we are breaking “reading” and “writing” into step by step skills instead of allowing students the dignity of doing real reading and writing, and building from their practice through our discussions, conferences, collaboration, and sharing. Thank you for sharing this marvelous video.


Jamshed Bharucha”The dirty little secret about learning…: Jamshed Bharucha at TEDxCooperUnion

How does this relate to Genius Hour ( #geniushour ) and project/problem/passion based learning (PBL)? I think it makes the case for more time on authentic learning and less time of intervention skills.  What say you?


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  4 comments for “The thing about learning is we forget; #etmooc

  1. Susan van Gelder
    February 3, 2013 at 7:39 am

    Absolutely – PBL allows for learners to integrate their learning, to practice skills and to work at their own pace. It also lets learners learn from each other. But I think we also need to help the students reflect on their learning, to become aware of the strategies that work or or dont’ work for them, to set goals and to revisit the goals to see how they are doing. I also think it is important for students to self-assess.

    • February 3, 2013 at 2:01 pm

      Hi Susan, Thanks for the info about PBL allowing student to work at their own pace and learn from each other. I so agree that part of any PBL is the continual self-reflection piece. Julie shared some links to metacognition here: metacognition here which can offers strategies for us. I also enjoyed the courses and ideas from and If you have any suggestions for projects or links, please write a post and link back here! Thank you!

  2. Susan van Gelder
    February 2, 2013 at 7:01 am

    Thanks for a great post. Back to the days of whole language which made so much sense (I knew someone who talked about how others advocated broken language) rather than teaching skills out of context. Much more fun reading, too, when you have a reason to do it – a great book! or an article about an issue kids are passionate about. Too much teaching to the test which does not give an interesting context for learning.

    I also think about the spiral nature of learning. You start by planting seeds, but have to come back to nurture those seeds over years. Once something is “taught” doesn’t mean the seed has taken hold and the learner has integrated that skill or knowledge. And who owns the learning – the teacher or the learner? We all grow at different times at different speeds.

    • February 2, 2013 at 11:55 pm

      Susan, I so agree with you, especially when you said, “Once something is “taught” doesn’t mean the seed has taken hold and the learner has integrated that skill or knowledge. And who owns the learning – the teacher or the learner? We all grow at different times at different speeds.

      Project based learning is so powerful because over and over the learner is practicing the skills needed to complete projects: read, write, communicate clearly, collaborate, revise, edit, research, etc.

      Thanks for adding to the conversation!

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