Understanding Our Learners

The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the deadly light into the peace and safety of a new dark age. – HP Lovecrafts’  The Call of  Cthulhu

Earlier this week, we were asked to read HP Lovecraft’s’ The Call of Cthulhu as our first assignment, and it completely blew my mind. The premise of the story and the Frog and Fish video taught us about the importance of knowing our learners. Preconceived notions that the students have may affect what they believe and what they learn. These beliefs will probably impede effective communication and interfere with students’ learning.

I also learned that the students are not the only ones who are responsible for their learning; educators need to be responsible for students’ learning as well. When designing a learning experience, educators need to identify the learners and bridge the assumptions that they may have to ensure learning transfer. As I looked back to my capstone project, I realized that this is a challenge that I need to work on. My targets are adult learners who I assumed already understand a little about the learning environment, but they probably do not, or they probably have a piece of preconception in this field. I need further exploration of students’ background, interest, and knowledge before I start designing an educational activity for them.


MMSc in Medical Education Candidate at Harvard Medical School
1 comment
  1. Hi Dini, I appreciate your comment about the instructor having responsibility for student learning. In some way it is a mutual learning experience – instructors are learning about the students to better help them learn the material. It is an important first step in design to consider that are learners are all individuals who bring with them specific understandings of the world. They will never take in new information in exactly the way it is provided to them. So we need to figure out what are the most important elements of the learning experience to get across and also consider the different ways we can engage different students. Perhaps we can also adopt an experimental mindset. If the lesson is not progressing as we imagine, how can we shift to a different approach? And, importantly, how can we know that the lesson is progressing well or not?

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