How do people learn?

Did you take a university- or college-level biology class? If so, do you remember how the lecturer stood in front of the class going through fact after fact, process after process, bacteria, protozoa, and the like? Then you went home and propped your eyes open with toothpicks to get through a textbook that was so heavy you could have used it as a lethal weapon. You sat there night after night, going through highlighter pens as if they were tissues. How much of the content from this, or a similar class, do you actually remember?

Pop quiz!

What are the eight phases of the cell cycle and mitosis?

If, during your studies, you were given an opportunity to use this information in any way, such as staring through a microscope for hours to determine what stage a cell is at in the process, you probably do remember. How could you forget that? But, if you didn’t use this information, if you only memorized the process, you probably would have to look up the answer today. If interested, the correct answer is provided at the end of this blog post.

The key word in the previous paragraph is ‘use.’ Because learners don’t truly learn something – don’t truly process a new piece of knowledge and integrate it into their thought patterns – unless they are given an opportunity to use it in a practical way.

This is a key aspect of adult learning theory. It is also why an Instructional Designer, or ID, who is working with you will ask questions like:

1. What do you want learners to be able to do at the end of this lesson?
2. What do you want learners to be able to do better at the end of this lesson?
3. How do you expect learners to use this information?
4. How do you expect learners to apply this new knowledge in their day-to-day work environment?

People don’t learn from lists. They don’t learn from reading. They learn by doing. The doing can involve many different types of activities. They key is that the learner needs to somehow take an idea, concept, or task apart and re-assemble it. In other words, doing, using, applying, constructing, or deconstructing.

Each of us has a learning style. According to Fleming’s VAK/VARK model, each of us has a learning preference for one of the following: visual, auditory, or kinesthetic/tactile. However, even for those who are auditory learners who may get a lot out of attending a lecture, to learn something, even they need to:

• Have an experience
• Review the experience
• Come to conclusions about the experience
• Plan next steps

Listening to facts and reading about them just don’t cut it. Using ideas and concepts is the key, and that’s what we aim for at PulseLearning.

Correct Answer: Phases of cell cycle and mitosis
1. Interphase
2. Preprophase
3. Prophase
4. Prometaphase
5. Metaphase
6. Anaphase
7. Telophase
8. Cytokinesis

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