Learning is about what you can DO

“What am I going to learn?”

Sounds like a reasonable question to ask yourself before taking a course. But I think it’s the wrong starting point.

And if you’re designing a course, then “What am I going to teach?” isn’t right either. But if you read my third essay, then you already know that. “What am I going to help people learn?” sounds much better, right?

Yes, it does… but thinking about what people are going to learn often leads to a focus on knowledge transfer through content and instruction, rather than a learning experience that brings meaningful change.

What really matters in a course is what it helps you do, not what you know at the end of it.

More powerful questions are:

  • “What do I need to be able to do that I can’t do now?” 
  • “What do I need to be able to do better than I can now? And what does ‘better’ look like?”

When we learn, it’s almost always because we want (or need) to develop a new skill or behaviour that will help us in a situation we expect to encounter.

“When I next go to France, I want to be able to have basic conversations with people I don’t know without feeling embarrassed”. That’smuch more useful for a learner and a learning designer than “I want to learn the basics of French”.

It casts a whole new light on the learning experience you’re going to create for that person.