We’re in a rush. A rush to get content to learners (rapid learning), to get the minimum to them to get them over the hump (performance support), to not waste their time. All valuable, all I’ve lauded. But…
The UK eLearning visit that I co-chaired mentioned the Slow Food movement, and the thought’s stuck with me that there’s a flip-side we’re forgetting. It’s about having a long-term relationship with the learner, where we care about them, and are interested in developing them as people, not just as cogs.
So I’m hereby initiating the Slow Learning movement. It’s a move where we care about our learners as learners, helping them with their suite of learning and problem-solving skills as well as their job-related skills. There’s an ROI here, as Jay Cross and I have argued for (warning: PDF file). It’s a move where we care about learners as individuals, not just helping them be better, but wiser as well. It’s about using technology to use drip-irrigation over time as well as the firehose for the moment.
I think there’s a concrete value here that we’re missing, an opportunity, maybe even money we’re leaving on the table. It’s about improving our workforce from within. It could be about helping them better understand their organization’s mission, about helping them be better innovators, and even just making them feel valued and decreasing turnover.
Won’t you join the Slow Learning movement?
Geetha Krishnan says
I completely agree with you, Clark. While rapid learning does have its advantages, I reckon it only hits at short-term memory and immediate application. If we want learners to learn for life, then I reckon they need to spend time on their learning. Imagine if we reduce schooling to only five years, and undergraduate programs to three months!
Count me on the Slow Learning movement.
Thanks, Geetha. Yes, there’s lots of evidence that stuff learned in a massed practice way (like cramming for a test) doesn’t stick. I reckon we ought to be focusing on slowly developing real learning, going beyond smart to wise individuals: systems-thinking, problem-solving, leadership, self-learning, values, etc. The ability to provide a good answer rather than quickly developing an ability to provide an adequate answer.
In Australia, we were about to start a similar concept! Serendipity? The world is getting faster and faster, which means more and more bad decisions are being made. Lets slow things down and create something new…………and better.
Sam, visited your blog (and left a comment). Yep, I reckon people are thinking more and more about this, but there’s some work ahead to counter the “we don’t have time for reflection” mentality.
Sam Grumont says
Thanks for the comment. As you can see I’m new to blogging and can’t figure out all of the linking and tracking stuff yet. I’ll repsond to your comment on my blog as well.
I’ve come across another mention of slow learning from Leading and Learning blog:
As Mae West once said, â€˜Anything worth doing is worth doing slowly!â€™
sarah rabia says
I’ma trend forecaster and journalist at The Future Laboratory. We’ve had a hunch that wisdom will be the next cycle of the Knowledge Economy and I’m very interested in speaking to experts such as Clark about what this means and where its headed.If you have time to drop me a few lines before Monday 16th AM about wisdom and slow learning, mentioning what it means in reference to the Web 2.0 backlash for an article I’m writing that would be great. If not, please get in touch for future work we are doing.
Domenico Piazza says
I am new to your website but fascinated by the possibilities it offers me as a consultant in public schools. I train teachers and administrators in an instructional design based on current brain research. The design, 4MAT, was created by Bernice McCarthy who is based in the Chicago area.
The educators I meet have a common complaint. Students don’t retain their lessons. The teachers feel driven by high stakes test schedules and depressed by the test’s interest in quick memorized data.
My training focuses on vertical learning rather than “coverage.” Great results have come from this shift in emphasis, but schools still feel shackled to the state’s deadlines.
I would like to combine my training with a clearer understanding of the “Slow Learning” movement. Is there available research about specific places where this philosophy is being used? Public Education is in dire need for a saner emphasis.
Domenico, glad to see someone trying to make a difference. Let me state, however, that brain-based learning has some problems. Check out the videos by Professor Dan Willingham on brain-based research and learning styles (danielwillingham.com). Which goes for 4MAT as well. Just look for good learning theory, like Cognitive Apprenticeship. 4MAT does end up invoking most of what we know about making learning work, so it works regardless, but no need to pay for a proprietary approach.
Now, to your question. The state deadlines and NCLUntested are broken. We need richer pictures of capability (cf portfolios), and more nuanced curricula. Focus on skills, not knowledge. We’ll get motivation, retention, and transfer not when it’s rote, but when it’s made meaningful. Not quite sure what you mean by vertical learning, but we know that learning works better when we address the motivation (and anxiety) as well as the cognitive side. Any refocus to make it meaningful will help.
However, Slow Learning as a framework is somewhat untested (a needed research agenda). The closest research I can point you to is the ‘spaced practice’ stuff, which Will Thalheimer does a good job of summarizing. I’d suggest that spiral curricula also invoke this model. Revisiting and elaborating (as well as cross-linking). Problem-based learning and service learning *can* be used this way too, but it’s not obvious.
Keep up your search, and the fight for what’s right. Good luck!
Hi Clark, I really like your post incl “Most learning events are based upon a learning event with a concentrated learning experience and assessment. Of course, that learning atrophies relatively quickly, without reactivation.” I’m torn between the need to put constraints – such as time – in order to innovate – whilst recognising that putting time as a constraint may also do the opposite.
I’m sure that slow learning is definitely needed in 2009 though,
PS all the best with your mobile book!
Jacqui Hills says
Hello – I like the sentiments here – but think the popularity of the term will just not catch on – we have always termed difficult to teach students or failure to thrive students as : “slow learners” – we are not in the business of rewarding reflection, allowing adequate time for individual learning preferences or developing a sense in individuals that speed and rapidity of learning and moving through content is not the paramount importance and valued above all other learning experiences whilst at school.
Much of our schooling structures support the idea that schooling is fast, rapid fire and this feels at times relentless. 5 classes a day, crowded curriculum, bells, whole new class groups every 45 minutes – as is the current structure for most of the teaching and learning in many of our secondary schools. This demonstrates that at our core, our schooling system does not value reflection and the ‘slow learner’…
Good luck though – I do believe it is the way to go! I have also checked out the website of what is happening in Australia at: learningandknowing.blogspot.com
Looks interesting – so perhaps there is change in the air…
patricia kambitsch says
Just found this post!
I’ve been using the term “slow learning” for at least about as long as you. I can’t believe I just found this. Here’s another reaction to a discussion that also included you. http://slowlearning.org
Hope you’re still learning slowly!