The Five Components of Beliefs that Influence Learning

Read this and consider your own beliefs about learning.

Many different kinda of beliefs affect your life everyday. People have different religious beliefs, moral beliefs, political beliefs, and so on. You may have thought a lot about those kinda of beliefs, but have you ever thought about your beliefs about learning? Have you ever considered how you gain knowledge or what knowledge is? If you are like most students, you probably haven’t thought much about where knowledge comes from, but your beliefs about knowledge do impact what and how you learn.

Component 1: Certainty of Knowledge. Some students believe that knowledge is continually changing based on current information. When they are in class, they think about what they already know about the topic and may change their beliefs about the topic by adding new information to what they already know. These students approach learning by trying to find the truth in all situations.
Professors tend to view their disciplines as constantly changing. Therefore, to memorize only “facts” would be a waste of time. Instead, most professors not only want you to be able to understand what is currently known, but also want to prepare you for future learning. Professors expect students to question what they read and be willing to live with the notion that there may not be a solution or definite answer to every problem or question.

-Component 2: Simple Knowledge. Some students believe that knowledge consists of highly interconnected concepts, but other students believe that knowledge consists of a series of unrelated bits of information. Students who believe that knowledge is complex look for relationships between ideas as they learn. They try to see the “big picture” and the relationships among the small piece of information within that big picture. On the other hand, students who have a strong belief that knowledge is simple tend to break information down into very small isolated parts and never put it back together again. Although breaking information into smaller chunks is a great strategy for some tasks, for example when learning something you must memorize (like the periodic table of elements), a student who learns only isolated pieces of information will miss the big ideas. Because most of the assignments you will experience require you to apply what you have learned, you need to go beyond memorizing small bits of information and begin to see how the information is connected.

-Component 3: Responsibility for Learning. Beliefs about knowledge also depend on your beliefs about who is responsible for your learning in college. Some students believe that it is the professor’s responsibility to be sure that all students learn the information. Other students believe that although the professor guides their learning, they are ultimately responsible for their own learning. In high school, your teacher probably took a lot of the responsibility for your learning in class. You most likely had little choice in the subjects you studied or learned or the way you were assessed. College professors expect students to take responsibility for a good deal of their own learning. They expect students to be able to figure out information on their own, and they also may expect students to be able to pull together information from a variety of sources.

Component 4: Speed of Learning. Some students believe that learning is a gradual and on-going process, but other students believe that is learning is going to happen, it happens quickly or not at all. In other words, some people believe that most things worth knowing take a long time to learn, but other people think that is they don’t “get it” right away, they never will. Students who believe that learning takes time are better prepared for college tasks. However, students who believe that learning should happen quickly are often frustrated in college when they are faced with complex information.

-Component 5: The Role of Ability. Some students believe that people can learn how to learn, but others believe that the ability to learn is fixed and that they are naturally good at some things but will never be able to do other things. Students who believe that people can learn how to learn tend to view difficult tasks as challenges that can be met. Instead if giving up, these students will try different strategies for learning and will ask for help from the professor or their friends if they need it. There are probably people in your classes who make learning look easy, but students who appear to learn “naturally” probably spend time and effort in activities that promote academic success, such as reading and reflecting.

What do you believe?? Are there any beliefs you feel you need to change to better succeed? The next article will help with that.

Excerpt from College Success Strategies by Sherrie L. Nist and Jodi Patrick Holschuh.



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