I've just used the define function of Google for the word "learning". I really wish I had not. So imagine my disappointment when I searched "learn".
To be fair my search for a working definition has been as long one. I'm not after an academic, convoluted all encompassing one, just something I can use to spot it taking place in the students in my classroom. Graham Nuthall has wonderfully documented how difficult teachers find this.
I think I have come to clarity recently with a one word definition. That word is change.
If someone has learned something it will manifest itself in one of three places.
Most obviously is the acquisition of new knowledge, students will know a new fact previously unlearned, or added to an existing idea which deepens or broadens a concept.
This may also culminate in the second area, which is a change in an opinion. For this to happen it may or may not involve new knowledge but could be down to recognising the significance of a piece of knowledge.
The final are is probably the most complex. This is the student confidence in their knowledge. Students could move from "I think the answer is..." to " I am certain that it is..". The reason for this is the students are linking a piece of knowledge to evidence of its validity or truth. So it is possible that learning results in the student becoming less confident. In a world where it is necessary to unlearn and relearn it is vital that the student thinks about why they know something and verify that they have sufficient evidence to believe it. This is rather counter intuitive. I thinks it's probably worth spending a moment to think about how you could help students manage this loss of confidence and see it as a part of the learning process.
This route however allows students to unlearn your misconceptions or eventually be more confident in it, if/when they find the reason something is true.
So to summarise my working model of learning is a change in knowledge, opinion and/or confidence.
Incidentally, the Internet is saved as I searched for "definition of learning Graham Nuthall" and I stumbled upon Artichokes blog, and there too the word change appears in the definition. In such company I feel vindicated! Huzaah!
To clarify the use of italics for the phrase piece of knowledge as I am unsure of the piecemeal nature of knowledge. I'm sure Nuthall phrases it as "item" for completeness.
My interest in the idea of sharing pedagogical purposes comes directly with the contact I have had with the Project for Enhancing Effective Learning at Monash University in Australia. Now each of these teachers were very active in establishing learning agendas with their classes. The impact they were having was inspiring. Each classroom tool can have a purpose beyond delivering content, and this needs to be shared.
I suppose the purpose of this website is collate, crystalise and open dialogues about how to increase this within classrooms. As the quote from Carl Bereiter illustrates this classroom methodology can empower our students.