Learning to learn

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1 Definition

“A range of more formal definitions of learning to learn exists, drawing on ideas of metacognition, thinking skills, self-regulation, self-efficacy and self-esteem (see, for example, Claxton, 2002). It is a well-used phrase in contemporary educational debates around the world, but the idea lacks conceptual clarity.” (Steven Higgins, 2009, retrieved 16:22, 8 July 2009 (UTC)).

Often, learning to learn seems to be tied to the evoluation of society. E.g. see John Holt's often quoted phrase: “Since we cannot know what knowledge will be most needed in the future, it is senseless to try to teach it in advance. Instead, we should try to turn out people who love learning so much and learn so well that they will be able to learn whatever needs to be learned.”.

With all the re-training needs, learning to learn is also a big issue in the adult learning community (Knowles). Also, some theorists (e.g. Schön) that succesful practitioners do have reflective learning strategies.

As far as I know learning to learn can't be simply taught (this contrasts with the opinions one may find on "the Internet"). Students can be advised to follow certain learning strategies or other metacognitive strategies and in particular to use what they already know. But learning scenarios with the aim to teach meta skills need special scaffolding strategies and adapted learning situations, e.g. favor project-oriented learning if the goal is to teach learners how to handle new situations. - Daniel K. Schneider 16:22, 8 July 2009 (UTC)

Learning-to-learn is also a sub-domain of machine learning (e.g. Thrun & Pratt, 1998), a sub-field of artificial intelligence.

See also other articles in the etacognition and learning strategies category.

2 Links


  • Learning to Learn Dept. of Education and Children's Services, Government of South Australia.

3 Bibliography

Higgins, Steven (2009). Learning to learn, beyondcurrenthorizons.org / FutureLabs online article. (May 2009). This is

  • Claxton, G. and Carr, M. (2004) A framework for teaching learning: the dynamics of disposition. Early Years, 24 (1), pp.86-98.
  • Holt, J, (1964) How Children Fail. Penguin.
  • Knowles, M.S. (1984). Andragogy in Action: applying modern principles of adult learning. Jossey-Bass Pubs., San Francisco.
  • McGill, I. and Beaty, L. (1995) Action Learning . 2ed. Kogan Page
  • Novak, Joseph D. and Gowin, D. Bob (1985). Learning How to Learn, Cambridge University Press. (Novak is well known for his CMAP concept map tool).
  • Schön, D. (1982). The reflective practitioner : how professionals think in action. Basic Books.
  • Thrun, S. and L.Y. Pratt, editors. Learning To Learn. Kluwer Academic Publishers, Boston, MA, 1998. (Propaganda page) (this is about machine learning)