Two Opposite But Important Elements of Learning

Karl Kapp, The Learning Generalist, Jul 12, 2013
Commentary by Stephen Downes
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"Without these two elements, a person does not learn as deeply as they could. When designing a learning intervention, you need to design both high levels of activity as well as quiet times for reflection." I have called these elements 'practice and reflection', while Karl Kapp opts for 'interactivity' and 'reflection'. But I think we're up to the same thing:

  • In the former: "Learning is about action, activity and engagement. The learner needs to be practicing the task he or she undertakes, the learner needs to be engaged in the instruction and working in an authentic or realistic environment."
  • In the latter, "After an activity or experience is over and the learner sits back and reflects upon what happened, that’s when learning occurs... he or she gains insights into behaviors and the proper way of performing a function."

This is a common pattern: activity, then settling; activity, then settling. It's how we forge iron to make steel, it's how nature creates crystals, mountain ranges and river systems, it's how we govern through conflict then conciliation. It's a law of thermodynamics, it's a computational mechanism, it's a learning theory - perhaps the learning theory.

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