Personal Learning Experiences

As part of the Learning Design Theories Course we were asked to think about 3 different Learning Experiences we’ve had, with the following criteria:

“To complete this activity, think about 2-3 learning experiences, preferably: 1) a memory you recall from when you were learning something in elementary or middle school; 2) a memory from when you learned something in high school or college; and 3) an experience you had learning in a professional setting (first job, current career, etc.).”

For each of these Learnng Experiences we were then asked to answer 5 questions:

  • What was the topic you were learning?
  • Who was teaching you this topic?
  • How did you learn the information?
  • What type of information/skill were you learning? For example, was it information/content, such as history, or company policies, or was it a skill, such as using Microsoft Word?
  • Why were you learning the information or skill? 

The experiences I picked were as follows:

1. Elementary or Middle School 
I was trying to work out what this equated to in age, but the Wikipedia article on education ages and US schools left me more confused than when I started, so for this experience, I chose one that took place when I was in 4th year of Junior School (ie the final year of Primary) when I was 10 or 11 years old (in modern English education parlance this would be Year 6). This would be in 1980 probably towards the end of the summer term.

  • We learnt about how the binary number system worked, how to express denary numbers in it, adding binary numbers and subtracting them using 2’s Complement.
  • We had a teacher who’s name escapes me, she wasn’t our normal class teacher, instead she was covering lessons with us for the morning. She was a full time teacher at the school, but our normal teacher was elsewhere for the lesson for some reason.
  • It was very much a lesson where she showed and explained the topic, we then tried out some examples, dealt any with misconceptions and problems and then attempted the next part.
  • We were learning a skill that depended upon us understanding how the binary system represented numbers as well as how this equates to the denary system, we then manifested that understanding by successfully completing the problems we were set.
  • We weren’t learning the topic for any particular reason, it wasn’t a part of the curriculum, just a fill-in activity to keep the class occupied for a couple of hours. I often look back upon it though, and wonder if that was the point when I realised that Maths boils down to representing information in as systematic way. A system that we can manipulate in useful ways if we understand the relationship between how the symbols inter-relate. Especially as I went on to do a degree in Pure Maths, teach Maths for more than 2 decades, do another degree in Computer Science and teach both kids and adults to program.

2. High School or University

  • When I did my degree in Maths at University much of what we learnt was delivered in the same way. I’ve chosen Gaussian Elimination which falls under the topic Linear Algebra as an example.
  • The teaching came in two parts, firstly we had lectures with a lecturer, who’s name was the one on the course. This could be in groups of up to about 150-200 students at once, the other part was in tutorial groups of 5-6 students with a lecturer who might or might not be the same person as the main lecturer.
  • The lectures were very didactic, the lecturer would essentially stand in front of 3 or 4 floor to ceiling roller black boards. He started with the one on the left, and essentially wrote out his lecture notes onto the board, explaining a little what he was writing. Questions were very few from the audience. Over the course of a term he would get us to copy out what amounted to a text book, via the medium of the black boards. In the tutorials, the tutor would explain some of the things that had been covered in the lectures in greater detail, but mainly we would work through exercises prior to the sessions and they would then go through the same exercises expanding upon answers etc.
  • The content of this course was a mixture of mathematical knowledge, mathematical skills and the ability to be able to apply both of these things, to solve new problems.
  • We were learning this content as it formed an essential building block in terms of many of the other concepts we would cover in the latter parts of the degree.

3 Professional Learning 
Since much of my career has been spent working in Schools, Universities and other education related settings this was quite a tricky section identifying a non-educational setting where I was learning something new.

  • I decided to settle on a very basic First Aid course I went on last year for my current role.
  • This course was delivered by someone who specialised in delivering these sorts of courses, he actually worked for a company as a Health and Safety Officer, but was also a designated First Aider at that company.
  • The learning took place in the form of some theory, followed by a practical demonstration, and then a practical hands-on session where we put our newly learnt skills into practice. We also recapped each part at various points across the day and finally finished off with an assessment which combined practical assessments with a written test.
  • We were learning practical skills and how to apply them in given situations.
  • The skills we were learning were necessary for part of the role that I was taking on.