Helping Students Adopt Learning Strategies for Meaningful Learning

Meaningful learning (learning with understanding, deep learning) occurs when we can use the information that we are acquiring to accomplish a goal or solve a problem.

Goal for the classroom:,
Students are active participants in the learning process.

Steps to meaningful learning:
1. Recognize the existence of a mental model (idea).
2. Test the mental model (idea).
3. Refine the mental model (idea).
iamse slides
Keys to success for engaging in meaningful learning during a course:
Students who have studied music or have been engaged in sports are familiar with the keys to success for meaningful learning. Unfortunately, few recognize the parallels between their earlier “non-classroom” learning and success in learning in the classroom. The following keys are presented with illustrations from music and sport to help students recognize that they are already familiar with this process.

1. Set performance goals.

Acquiring information without having a reason to acquire it makes it difficult to remember long-term. Find out how you will apply the information when you have completed the topic. What kinds of problems will you be expected to solve? If it is not clear from the course competencies or course objectives how you will use the information, ask the instructor.
In music:  The goal is to “perform the music” rather than “just playing the notes.”
In sport:  The goal is to play the game to the best of your ability.

2. Preview or set expectations for the topic being studied.

• Before each class, preview the information to get some idea of what will be discussed. Ask yourself, “What do I know about this?” OR “What is this like that I already know about?” OR “What do I expect to hear about in this class?”
• Make a list of questions that the preview raises in your mind. These are the questions that you will seek the answers to during the class. Listening for the answers to these questions will help you engage with what the instructor is saying.
In music:  Look at the sheet music for the day. Ask yourself, “What do I know about this?” OR “What is this like that I already know about?” Think about what you will try to accomplish during the class.
In sport:  What will we focus on during practice today? What do I already know about performing that (those) skills?

3. Participate – Engage the material in class

Make a contribution to the class discussion.
A. offer your ideas about what is being discussed.
B. test your ideas by answering questions that are being asked. Remember, you learn from your mistakes, so don’t be afraid if your answer is “wrong.”
C. ask for clarification of information that doesn’t make sense or that you are not too sure about. Remember, you are responsible for your learning!
In music:  Perform the music as best you can. Listen for “mistakes.” Remember, you learn from your mistakes, so don’t be afraid to play the wrong notes. Help others perform the music as best they can.
In sport:  Perform the skills to the best of your ability. Listen to the coach’s critiques to learn where your weak points are. Remember, you learn from your mistakes, so don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Help your teammates be the best that they can be.

4. Review

• After each class and lab period review the exercises that were discussed to see what information makes sense and what information requires further clarification.
• Consult the course reference reading or other available resources (including the instructor) to seek clarification for areas of confusion.
In music:  Perform the music keeping in mind what you learned during the class/rehearsal.
In sport:  Practice the skills that you focused on in practice keeping in mind what you learned during that experience.

5. Reflect

• Think about what might be contributing to the issues that arose from your review.
• Make a list of points that require further clarification so that you can ask about them in the next class (or individually with the instructor or a T.A.)
In music:  What will you change when you sing/play the piece again?
In sport:  What will you try to do in the next practice or game to incorporate what you’ve learned?

6. Refine:

After reflecting on the material and obtaining clarification of “fuzzy points,” refine your model of the system. Make a pictorial information organizer (concept map, mind map, flow chart, etc.) to help organize your thoughts and the links between them.
In music:  Practice the “new arrangement.” That is, practice implementing the changes that you thought were necessary as a result of Step 5.
In sport:  Practice the “adjustments” that you made as a result of your reflections in Step 5.

7. Keep current

• It is much easier to learn by taking one step at a time rather than having to “climb mountains” of seemingly endless new information!
• Remember, Life is Cumulative! If you rely on rote memorization, you will have to relearn the information over and over again. If you make sense of it, you will retain it. To be successful physicians, you must engage in meaningful learning for the rest of your life. “Instructors” will not be available to “tell you what you need to know” as you encounter new information and new problems. It is time to begin practicing this process in your academic pursuits so that you can be a “holistic learner.”
In music:  It’s easier to practice a little bit each day and build your performance skills rather than trying to perform the piece after one session.
In sport:  It’s easier to build a skill set one skill at a time rather than try to be proficient at all skills on the game after one practice.

To Learn More About This Project Contact Harold Modell