How Do You Learn? Tell Me What You Think


Teaching is my part-time job, but it is one, for the time being, through which I get to express passion.  I love doing it and base my approach on the fact that while I am the captain of the ship, it is populated with paying customers.

An education at Georgetown is not cheap and every single one of the students whom I have taught either at Georgetown or at the University of Maryland (my alma mater) has heard the same refrain from me:

You are my customers.

If you are not getting the service that you want and need, we need to adjust.  Sometimes, it is you, sometimes it is me.  So when I came across this amazing diagram on the Social Reformer’s site, How Students Learn, I could think of no better test.  And the cool part of this is that a) you get to offer feedback on the blog, and b) you also get to “…click your position and then describe, in 140 characters or less, how this quality of the native information experience might be leveraged inside the classroom (classwork, projects, homework, assessment, grading, etc.),” in effect, participating in a larger experiment.

So my Georgetown pals, past and present, have a look – and tell me what you think.


P.S. – Sorry for the incomplete image above, but even when I maximized my screen resolution, I could not capture the entire page.  So clicking on the image or any of the links in the post will get you the whole enchilada.



  1. Sunaina Bhatnagar Says: February 2, 2009 at 7:07 am

    I like this test a lot because it outlines something that most students may not already know about their learning processes. Personally, I found this test useful because I realized that I learn best when I come to class prepared with “prior knowledge.” For example, doing the readings beforehand helps me to get the most out of the lectures in class. Looking at this test, though, I realize that I could work more on being responsive and asking more questions to get the most of my learning experience. This would help me organize my knowledge and use it beyond the classroom.

    This diagram is a useful tool for both students and teachers to understand how students learn. I also like that we are able to participate in the larger experiment, and d view feedback on what other students and teachers have to say about this tool. I definitely learned more about how I learn and the areas I need to work on to improve my overall learning experience. Thank you.

  2. Shakirah Hill Says: February 3, 2009 at 8:29 am

    Provoked communication is an essential tool in the classroom. It opens dialogue and allows for many perspectives on an idea. Hearing different opinions is a great learning model for me because it hinders me from having a single track thought process. Additionally, teachers should encourage students to engage in more conversations about their specific subject area and how it applies to the real world. This will increase the practice of that subject and allow students to think about how it is applied in their everyday life.

  3. Kevin Kaveski Says: February 3, 2009 at 8:33 am

    The diagram provided is an interesting concept. Questions I have are whether or not someone can learn through more than one style or system?

    I personally believe that I have multiple learning styles. Some styles work better than others for me, but it’s a combination of styles.

    Myers-Briggs personality testing helped me identify what my learning style and the skills that I obtain and use when learning.

    I’m personally fueled by questions, value safely made mistakes, responsive, and measure accomplishments.
    However, I like to see conventional application when learning. I may understand a concept or an idea, but, conventional understanding can cement understanding of an idea.

    This diagram gives a loose understanding of how we learn (without taking extended testing). The feedback provided when you click on the (link) bubbles is a great idea that allows teachers, administrators, and students to share their thoughts and ideas on learning. If this was used with each class, students and facilitators would have mutual understanding of the learning process and what is expected.

    I would encourage students and teachers, if your interested in determining how you learn and your personality (in-depth), take the Myers-Briggs test.

  4. Erinn Dumas Says: February 3, 2009 at 1:49 pm

    The learning path that I associate with is “Students come to the classroom with prior knowledge that must be addressed if teaching is to be effective – Values Personal Experience & Identity”. The statements that are associated with this learning path are true. The phrase “Values Personal Experience & Identity” reflects me the most. Every experience that I have had has shaped me and has spurred tremendous growth. In the classroom, I pull from those experiences and use them as a frame a reference and the frame of reference gives me a better understanding of the subject matter.

    The characteristics that are associated with the phrase “Values Personal Experience & Identity” are also very reflective of my learning style. The ones that I associate myself with most are below. * My perspective is in bold
    • Means tuning into the experiences and culture of young people…not the b.s theoretical stuff… but music, language, experience. Practice and experience are the best ways for me to learn, while theory is great to know, it only gives you background.

    • Might involve more artistic products, to take advantage of personal strengths, and might allow multiple ways to demonstrate learning.

    • Students assume different identities to propose different points of view. In order for me to think of others perspectives, I have to “become” that person momentarily.

    • Research on a topic they’re interested in, instead of chosen from a restrictive list. I love being free to make my own choices and being able to choice a topic that I am passionate about. This, in turn, allows me to be more effective in my communication.

    • Students produce something that is unique to then yet meets a standard or common goal. All things I do, I make it unique to me, regardless of the assignment

    As mentioned in the initial phase of the diagram, I am the student that has to be knowledgeable of the subject matter that will be discussed prior to the start of class because if not, I won’t be able to actively participate in the conversation and won’t be able to follow what everyone is discussing – I hate being left out of a conversation and not having something to add.

    As the results of the evaluation state, I learn in a more creative, non-traditional, practical environment.
    One good example from the list of characteristics that is relevant to your teaching is “Research on a topic they’re interested in, instead of chosen from a restrictive list”.

    Lastly, your teaching style is very conducive to my learning, I have no complaints.

  5. Keith Parent Says: February 4, 2009 at 7:02 am

    My Learning method has a balance that seems to meet my needs and allows for a diverse combination of learning methods that make knowledge retention more effective and real world application more likely. I require organization and the “use of knowledge conventionally,” in order to efficiently lean and absorb the skills and information needed to then apply that learning experience to a challenge that may present itself in my professional life. I also need a form of chaotic learning; a sense of chance or the unexpected that keeps my analytical skills sharp and strengthens my ability to respond quickly and accurately.

    If my learning experience lacks either aspect, I tend to miss things or only connect with particular parts of the learned material. The three offshoots of the organized learning bubble take on a chaotic role that enhance my ability to learn and retain the knowledge for future application. Questions asked, provoked communication and active response, all allow me to remember a conversation that isn’t necessarily planned or organized, but coincide with the required organization needed for an effective learning platform.

  6. Shana McMahon Says: February 4, 2009 at 9:29 am

    The diagram brings to light the many different type of learning methods that I have to grab my attention and retain the information I am learning. Provoking communication and being fueled by questions are some of the best ways I learn the material that is being taught to me because these methods allow the people communicating with each other to see things from many different perspectives. It is good to see that there is more than one way to think and understanding this I feel more well rounded and getting more out of the lesson and in return being able to apply it to real life.

    The biggest revelation I had about learning experiences was when I entered the working world. I came to realize that I value personal experience, listening and working with people in the field that I am studying. I have gotten more out of my personal experience in the work force than in some of my undergraduate courses. I value what someone working in the field that I am studying has to say because I know what they say comes from real life personal experiences rather than a book. To be able to apply personal life experience into a classroom would be great. I have had classes where we have had guest speakers to reveal what the field they work in is really like and be open to discussions to help us when we go out and apply what we are learning into the real world.

  7. Felicia Akoh Says: February 4, 2009 at 10:10 am

    This is a very good post and i believe it is going to help us identify where we are and where we want to go to in class and in this course as a whole.

    With all of the students identifying where we belong is going to give Mark and Lily a better position to deliver the goods well to us their customers.

  8. Zhazira Bukina Says: February 4, 2009 at 10:12 am

    I found this diagram on the Social Reformer’s site, How Students Learn, is a very interesting and unusual. Firstly, if students understand how they learn and how to manage their own learning, they will more value their own study and time, spending at university or college. During my undergraduate study, my classmates and I didn’t feel really comfortable with the way we learnt our classes. Maybe because nobody even asked us what we wanted to get from the teacher, which way we preferred to organize new knowledge. In other words, we did not feel real involvement in the process of study. As a result, many students neglected teachers’ efforts to give us new and interesting materials. The reasons of such attitude derived form the conception of the old Soviet education: students must gain knowledge, repeating teachers’ thoughts and grinding at subjects.
    What I like at Georgetown, is that students communicate with professors and classmates freely and openly through blogs and Google groups, for example. I completely agree with some comments that student personal investment in the learning process help to create assignments that “become part of a personal portfolio which is shared with parents, peers, and perhaps even employers or colleges”. Indeed, such assignment “would be much more than finding information — would live higher up on learning taxonomies.” So, personal investment and communications during the learning process give student choice how to organize and use his or her knowledge beyond the classroom.

  9. Catherine Avery Says: February 4, 2009 at 11:53 am

    As a fundraiser working in a school, I regularly attend faculty meetings where the primary focus on the agenda is to better understand the various ways that students learn different skill-sets. When I first read the “How Students Learn” diagram, I did not realize that it was an actual test and had to pick one of the “native information experiences.”
    My understanding of how students learn derives from my own experiences as a student and from my experiences in teaching and working with others. In my evaluation of how I learn best, I realized that my learning is a combination of all of the information experiences, and to put it into the learning terms used by the American Psychological Association (APA),I am more intuitive and more verbal compared to being more sensing and more visual. In an APA study, researchers found that students with more active (vs. reflective) and more intuitive (vs. sensing) learning styles reported greater research self-efficacy, and students with more intuitive (vs. sensing) and more verbal (vs. visual) learning styles reported greater research interest.By combining this research with the “How Students Learn” diagram, I discovered that I am an intuitive and verbal learner that values personal experience and identity.

  10. Alec Jeffries Says: February 4, 2009 at 1:16 pm

    The interrelated learning web demonstrates the complexity of “learning how to learn.” These intertwined components create a systematic approach to absorbing knowledge. However, one formula does not fit all. Students are constantly searching for effective and efficient ways to comprehend, analyze and soak up information. A well thought-out plan that focuses on measuring accomplishments, embracing personal experiences and promoting applied knowledge creates a diversified range of learning tools for the eager student.

    I appreciate the “you are my customer” approach. It is refreshing for an educator to be transparent regarding student expectations and open to change depending on a pupil’s individual learning needs. A mutual understanding of values and responsibility within the educational framework is a pleasant introduction to any course.

  11. Alicja Patela Says: February 4, 2009 at 2:23 pm

    I have come to realize that I learn best when I incorporate different styles of retention and “hands- on” practices. Being a visual person, I am able to comprehend an idea or concept more accurately when I see it in front of me visually. This can be via PowerPoint, charts or using examples in the classroom. Reviewing other student’s work and going over class assignments/ lectures, leads to a more permanent embedment of the information presented.
    Classroom participation and interaction is vital in any course, that’s how the professor connects with the students and forms a “comfortable” classroom environment. I enjoy going to class with that comfort feeling, knowing that my professor will answer my questions, challenge me with group discussions and offer his/ her own personal insight and experiences. “Provokes Communication” is crucial in the classroom and I definitely think that there are several ways of “communicating,” each professor is different but the effort has to be there in order to connect with the students on some level. This can be directly linked to “asking questions,” a comfortable learning environment encourages students to not only participate more but take risks in classroom discussions and individual class assignments

  12. Mark Story reminds us at the beginning of his post that the “education at Georgetown is not cheap,” a true statement that makes it more important for me to gain true education that I can apply to my current and any future jobs.

    I know from personal experience that teaching is not an easy job, and not everyone can do it. An educator puts in a significant amount of time outside of the classroom to ensure that his/her students learning needs are being met. Students, just like teachers, also have to dedicate time outside of the class to ensure that they are getting the most from their education.

    As a student I have the following responsibilities:
    •manage and organize my time and priorities to ensure balance and prevent burnout
    •have read the assigned materials prior to class discussion
    •be open with the professor if I didn’t understand the discussion
    •seek help, if help is needed

    If this is done at the end of the semester I won’t just have the grade I earned but I would have full knowledge and understanding of the topics discussed in class. The later I feel is more important than a grade, my money’s worth.

  13. I love to incorporate what I’ve learned through previous experiences. I am often quite in the classroom setting because I retain the information as well as gain feedback from other classmates. I am often fueled by questions and provoke communication if I’m passionate and interested about the subject matter. Although the diagram provided great insight, different variables affect my learning style such as the professor, subject and the setting.

    To be honest, I was more impressed by Mark’s interest on how we learn and his passion for teaching.

  14. Tzu-Ying(Daisy) Chen Says: February 4, 2009 at 2:47 pm

    From my learning experience, those qualities of students’ native information experiences look so ideal that I can hardly connect them to my past study. Most of Taiwanese students spend much time cramming the contents of textbooks to gain knowledge and higher grade. Grade is the only thing that reflects students’ performance in teachers’ standpoint. Mistakes are unacceptable for they might lower students’ grade, especially in the exams. It seems ridiculous that the progress of learning accounts for nothing. Studying in Georgetown is somewhat different.

    On one hand, we pay high tuition to Georgetown University in order to obtain professional knowledge from teachers hired by Georgetown University. For this business-like reason, I can understand why Mark restated that we are his customers. On the other hand, just like a salesman instructs his customer how to correctly use the product to ensure the product works well. We are taught to learn and practice those qualities of students’ native information experiences to better our study and performance.

    To value safely made mistakes is quite important to me since my experience of learning does not cover this part. Personally, learning from mistakes helps me probe into more questions which I am unfamiliar with in this field. In addition, it also grants me an opportunity to examine my study so that I will gain impressive experience to avoid committing to the same mistake again.

  15. Jacqueline Sibanda Says: February 4, 2009 at 3:00 pm

    I found the diagram provided a practical overview of the dynamics that exist in the classes that I have experienced since starting my graduate school experience.

    When I looked at the classes I have found most engaging and interesting, the common factors were that each group dynamic provoked communication, valued personal experience and identity and fueled questions.

    I am an sponge for information and I want to hear what other people think, know or don’t understand. I get as much of my learning from the other students as I do from the instructors.

    Listening to questions posed by and engaging in a discussion with my peers propels me to think wider and deeper about the subject and to really challenge myself intellectually.

  16. sakshi jain Says: February 4, 2009 at 4:48 pm

    My approach to learning is best described as multifaceted with various sources of information converging at once. Passively listening in a lecture or reading a book is insufficient; engaging in the classroom environment by asking questions that stem from applied learning (taking materials from books/lectures and overlapping it with real-life scenarios found in media, blogs, etc) leads to a deeper, broader understanding of core principles, not to mention improving overall retention. Since I am more of a visual learner, diagrams or hands-on demonstrations are the best way for me to comprehend theories and concepts.

    To make the learning experience even more enriching, I find, at the very least, an angle of personal interest in the material being taught. This brings me to the How Students Learn diagram on your blog. Of the branches stemming from the core of learning, the box entitled Demands Personal Investment is where I sit. With 20 or so students in a classroom, a teacher cannot cater to each student’s personal investment in the class; instead the student must take the material and customize it to meet their own goals and objectives. Taking this one step further involves asking questions of fellow students and teachers that address your personal learning needs. Also, the freedom to choose topics for assignments is another way students can personalize their learning and maximize one’s educational ROI.

  17. Raquel Fuentes Says: February 4, 2009 at 6:12 pm

    I read through all the snippets posted under the various categories and three major categories emerged in my mind. Learning involves: communication, risk taking, and self direction.

    Communication is the most important one. Communication is crucial between the teacher and the student but also among the students. Not just communication after a project or a presentation, but there has to be a constant open-ended dialogue and constant feedback among all classroom participants. Learning involves the exchange of ideas back and forth not just the download of information.

    Risk taking. Students need to be able to take risks in the classroom, to ask a “stupid” question, not have all the answers, and not worry whether an answer is right or wrong. Learning involves creating an enviroment where there’s open discussion and allowing students to “push the envelope”, only then can they improve and grow.

    Self-direction. Students need to have a sense of ownership and be able to choose projects based on their interestes and passions. Learning involves exploring issues and ideas that a student feels strongly about. It also means demostrating knowledge in various ways.

    While everyone’s learning style may be different, I thought those three things, communication, risk taking and self direction are rather universal.

  18. Yinka Olajide Says: February 4, 2009 at 9:41 pm

    I do believe that nothing is carved in stone when it comes to learning. Different learning environment can also determine which of the methods one might adopt. One also might consider the resources available to aid the learning experience. Personally there are three methods that I identify with in the test. One of them is the fact that I would like to safely make my mistakes and learn from them. I also found out that questions asked either by me or classmates tend to clarify issues that might otherwise be a little blurry to me. Lastly I realize that I have to invest in my learning through preparation in order to appreciate the value of the education received. Altogether, I think this is a thought provoking test that allows one to appreciate one’s learning experience.

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